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COVID-19 Diaries: Balcony Ballads a Bust in Washington, DC 

Windowsill Concerts and other COVID Music
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Windowsill Concerts and other COVID Music

We all have our own ways of dealing with stress. Mine is singing opera.

To be accurate, it certainly wasn’t my stress reliever when I was studying to be an opera singer in college. But once journalism became my fulltime career, I found that singing the occasional aria at home in my sweatpants with a glass of wine was one of my favorite pastimes.

I can’t tell you how many people have sent me videos of quarantined Italians singing from their balconies, and asked me, “Is this what you’re doing right now?”

I tried. Nobody in northeast Washington, D.C., wants to sing along to Verdi. But trust me, I tried.

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2020 was to start performing again, in some way more substantive than an open mic in a bar — though that is its own fun.

So for the first time since my university days, I auditioned for a show and was cast as Rapunzel in a D.C. production of "Into the Woods" — a show that was supposed to be starting its final week of rehearsals right now.

I want to preface this by acknowledging that having to give up a hobby is the smallest of sacrifices made in this pandemic.

Many of the people I went to school with are out of jobs — no more gigs, no more productions, fewer people taking lessons.

While my production has been canceled like so many others, we really are trying to make the most of it. Though my neighbors in D.C. aren’t as amenable to windowsill operatic concerts, musicians everywhere are still making music.

I’ve attended countless virtual concerts — from livestreams of past productions at the Metropolitan Opera in New York to Instagram lives of my friends playing in their garages. A few concerts have even served as fundraisers.

After seeing something similar, I just proposed to one of my friends that we sing a duet (separately, of course, and then edit our videos together). I’m still accepting song requests.

Now that going outside in a densely populated city is proving dangerous, I find myself longing for a time back in North Carolina when my friends and I would drink beer on a porch and trade instruments while learning some basic old-time song. It sounds like a Southern stereotype, but I swear it’s true. My first purchase with my first paycheck from VOA in 2015 was an antique mandolin.

And in January, along with auditioning, I finally started to take lessons to learn how to play something more than G and D chords on my mandolin. I went in hard on the music goals this year, guys.

My mandolin teacher has continued our lessons over Zoom. While they aren’t perfect, they’re a great relief to me in a time when all forms of enjoyment in our lives are being denied.

I am consistently in awe of the ways that people are continuing to do what they love while stuck in their houses. I think we all will be pleasantly surprised at the number of self-released albums recorded in closets that are going to come out after this.

And for those of us who are less organized in our music-making, well, I hope the neighbors enjoyed it.