Musicians Johanna Sö and Duane Keogh of the Town Pants were caught in New York City when the musical chairs of the coronavirus crisis stopped, and abruptly ended their tour. They self-quarantined upon return home, but musicians don’t stop wanting to perform just because concert venues are closed. One night in early April, after the 7:00 cheer for healthcare workers, Sö, a violinist, plugged in her small practice amp on her West End balcony and performed “Oh Canada” for her neighbours, and Keogh joined her on his guitar for one of their band’s songs.
“It’s all Johanna’s fault,” laughs Keogh. “She did a couple of nights, and I joined her on guitar, and we did an original tune of hers, ‘Resilience.’ People seemed to be starved for entertainment.”
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A couple from @songsofthanks who perform from their balcony every other night in the West End. Very cool to see the crowd on the street give each other space and enjoy some live music again! ????????????. If you would like to have your photo taken (it’s free) plz mssg me. #7pmcheer - - - #7pmcheer #7pmcheervancouver #7pmcheercanada #supporthealthcare #COVID-19 #coronavirus #support #doctorsandnurses #doingmypart #giving #helpinghands #charity #donate #Vancouver #photoproject #passionproject #everylittlebithelps #jonbenjaminphotography
Before long they’d gone to their storage unit to grab another amp, and so a series of two-song, post-cheer balcony concerts began—17 nights in a row from that first concert, and now three to four nights a week, right after the healthcare workers’ cheer.
They decided to give their concerts a name: “Songs of Thanks.” “It just came about because we wanted a way to connect with our neighbours,” says Sö. “We didn’t want to go with our band name—we didn’t want to be self promoting, we wanted it to be about the healthcare workers.” They hung a sign off of their balcony—first made from markers and paper, then upgraded to painters tape when that one didn’t demonstrate staying power. “We wanted people to contact us if they were concerned. And it did open up a lot of community conversations. We were able to build connection—people we wouldn’t have met before, people in our own building.”
They play both originals and covers—crowd favourites like Blue Rodeo, the Tragically Hip, Coldplay, Ritchie Valens for Cinco de Mayo—to cheers from the balconies surrounding them.
The duo is donating all proceeds from online purchases of their song, “Resilience”—the first they played on that night in early April—to local charities affected by COVID-19 in the month of May. And they’ve started to create face masks, t-shirts and more with a local manufacturing company to fundraise for St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation, which is just a few blocks from their apartment on Pendrell Street.
“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 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.”