Johanna Sö and Duane Keogh were performing in New York City with their band the Town Pants when the coronavirus crisis abruptly stopped the music and ended their tour. They self-quarantined upon their return home, but musicians don’t stop wanting to perform just because concert venues are closed. One night in early April, after the 7 o’clock cheer for health-care workers, Sö, a violinist, plugged in her small practice amp on her West End balcony and performed “Oh Canada” for her neighbours, with Keogh joining her on his guitar afterward for one of their band’s songs. It wasn’t too many days before they went into their storage unit to grab another amp, and a series of two-song, post-cheer balcony concerts began, which the duo coined “Songs of Thanks.”
They play both originals and covers—crowd favourites like Blue Rodeo, the Tragically Hip, Coldplay and a special Ritchie Valens set for Cinco de Mayo—to cheers from the balconies surrounding them. “It’s been heartwarming that people want to tell us that the music is appreciated,” says Sö. “At the beginning of our pandemic world, realizing that the chance we’ll be on stage again for some time is quite low—you feel… non-essential. But this has given us a boost of encouragement. Hopefully the music doesn’t have to stop just because we can’t play on a theatre stage anymore.”
The first original song they played on that night in April (“Resilience”) is available online, and the pair donated all proceeds from its sales during the month May to local charities affected by COVID-19. Let the music play.
Photo by Jon Benjamin