TAKOMA PARK, MARYLAND - Classical music drifts on the breeze through a quiet neighborhood in Takoma Park, Maryland.
On a side porch at a nearby house, a group of musicians perform as a clutch of people lean against trees and sit on stoops, a comfortable distance from each other.
The music, so fitting on this glorious spring day, is coming from the Milo Trio, three musicians who’ve been playing together regularly since January of last year.
Since new social guidelines and mandates have been put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, people haven’t been able to gather in large groups. So, the trio has switched from concert halls to the outdoors, to share the music they love to play with friends, family and neighbors, and visitors online.
This way, they hope people can keep their distance while enjoying a communal experience.
That was the case with Gina Gaspin, whose brilliant purple hair matched her scarf and sweater.
“I thought it was absolutely wonderful,” she said after the concert wrapped up. “I love the selection of music and just being here with the musicians who are performing, just made me feel a whole lot better."
“I was feeling anxiety just kind of drip off me as I got into the music,” she added. “To me, it's like one of those essential things that we're supposed to be doing now in this time of coronavirus.”
Sridhar Hannenhalli was there with his two young children.
“This is quite an opportunity in weather like this, and our kids’ teacher is playing here,” he said. “So wonderful to let them watch her and get inspired to do something like this.”
His son Ishaan has been playing the violin for seven years and is a student of one of the musicians. “It was really good,” he said. “Really complicated music.”
“I thought the music was really sweet and happy,” said his younger sister, Chloe.
Celaya Kirchner, the group’s violinist, said the three musicians play together at least once a week.
“So we’ve tried to figure out some way that we could see each other, bring music to the community, and satiate both those needs,” she said.
Emma Hays Johnson, the cellist, said the trio enjoys sharing their music with the people in the community, “and these outdoor porch, socially distinct concerts, have been a great way to help build that community and help people remember that we're all still here and we’re all still doing art.”
Carl Banner, the pianist in the group, is also the director of Washington Musica Viva, a 20-plus-year nonprofit devoted to producing chamber music programs.
He said the response to the two concerts the group has performed outdoors has been terrific.
“In the neighborhood I feel like a celebrity. Everybody stops me and says, ‘we loved your music.’ And I thought, ‘Wow.’”
During their first outdoor performance last week, they played Beethoven Opus 1 number one and Brahms Opus 8.
“These are pieces we know very well and we play them under any circumstances, and we did fine -- people really loved it -- specially Beethoven, interestingly, because it's really positive,” he said.
Right after their first event, the group received generous donations online, which covered the costs of the concert, Banner said. “So that worked out well.”
Universal language of music
The Milo Trio is not alone in its creative ventures.
Around the corner from Banner’s house, where they performed, Bill Crandall played his guitar from his garage and shared it with neighbors and on social media.
And across town this past weekend, urban jazz harmonicist Frédéric Yonnet invited his Capitol Hill neighbors as well as virtual friends to eavesdrop on his band’s live rehearsal and jam session.
It was his way to reconnect with neighbors in this period of social distancing. Neighbors were encouraged to open their windows, listen from their porches or tune in via Yonnet’s social media channels.
“We were going stir crazy in quarantine, so we decided to get together to rehearse for an upcoming virtual show,” Yonnet said in a press statement.
“You know, as a musician, you think most of your life no one cares,” said Milo Trio pianist Carl Banner. “Now they care.”
During these uncertain times, one thing is sure: When the sound of music beckons, people flock to listen, on the streets of Washington and beyond.