LEONIA — What began as a way to make Latin more fun in class has sparked a viral video version of Adele's "Hello" by Leonia High School teacher Keith Massey.
"Latin is alive and well and not going anywhere soon, thanks to the teachers," Massey told Daily Voice. "My videos show what we're willing to do."
Massey, of Morris County, has produced several popular tunes in Latin -- among them, the Beatles' "Hello, Goodbye," John Denver's "Annie's Song" and "If" by Bread.
"Hello" -- recorded as an entry for the Illustrated Sound Network's Pop Unplugged Cover Song Video Contest -- has taken off.
"I put it on my own Facebook page, but that's just family and friends," said Massey, who also sings in his church choir. "As of [Wednesday] morning, it had 2,500 views, way beyond the others in the competition."
A Wisconsin native, Massey, 49, began studying languages as a way to "follow the money" through college.
He majored in Latin and Classical Greek on scholarship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, then was offered one at the graduate school there to study Biblical Hebrew.
"I needed a minor, and an adviser suggested I take Arabic," he said.
Massey enlisted with the NSA and went to Iraq following requests by the government after 9/11 for people who speak Arabic. He was awarded a Global War on Terrorism Civilian Service Medal in 2004.
A decade ago, he was hired in Leonia.
"When I first became a Latin teacher, I started looking for Latin versions of popular songs, something that would be interesting for the students," he said, "but I couldn't really find any. I figured if they don't exist, I'd try my hand."
It's not easy -- the translating, that is.
"English is monosyllabic and Latin has a lot more syllables," Massey said. "You have to think about the order of words to make it singable."
Massey -- who has 95 students in five classes -- fashioned lessons around the songs. Before long, a catalog grew.
Then a friend from his NSA days mentioned the contest (Voting ends Tuesday: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LboQ_o4a-K4).
"I spent the entire weekend on it. I wanted it to be perfect," he said. "I never could have expected what would happen next. Latin students from all over the country are sharing it.
"It's clearly gone beyond my circle," Massey said. "Best of all, my students are loving it."
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.