In coronavirus quarantine, musicians give neighbors a treat



It may be a long while before music fans can again attend a concert in an established club or venue, but music has still managed to flourish during quarantine. Musicians, longing to connect with friends and neighbors, and eager to practice their art, have taken to their porches, patios, driveways, yards and even vehicles to play for passersby. The unexpected melodies have brought joy to listeners and a sense of emotional togetherness during a time of physical distance.

Times photographer Christina House captured six quarantine musicians in action, with text by Jessica Gelt.

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Pasadena

Beong-Soo Kim, cello; Bonnie Wongtrakool, piano

Cellist Beong-Soo Kim and his pianist-wife, Bonnie Wongtrakool, began playing impromptu concerts on their porch in March as a way to give back to their Pasadena community. The neighborhood soon caught on, and the couple’s weekly concerts became a joyous, much-anticipated happening.

“We thought with so much suffering, and so much anxiety, this is something very small that we can try to do to help,” Kim says.

(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

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Tarzana

Dilan Jay, guitar

When Southern California shut down, Dilan (rhymes with “Milan”) Jay found himself with dozens of canceled shows on his hands.

“It was a real mess,” he recalls.

Inspired by stories of other musicians playing on their porches, Jay decided to give it a try. Eleven weeks later, his Friday night concerts have become a socially distanced happening with sometimes more than 100 people spread out in the street. He splits his hourlong set with vocalist Starr Light, whom he met before quarantine at a local pub’s open mike night.

“When you love music, you love music,” Jay says. “It isn’t about money, it’s about expressing yourself. We need it as a community too.”

(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

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Pasadena

Jonathan and Cathy Karoly, cello and flute

Jonthan and Cathy Karoly are devoted musicians and members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, which is not performing through at least the end of the year after the company announced the cancellation of the remainder of its 2019-20 season.

The couple practiced day and night, but found that they missed playing for an audience. They soon began to perform weekly porch recitals, posting a set list on their front gate featuring works by Bach, Turina, Mozart, Saint-Saens, Piazzolla and more.

Neighbors regularly gather, sitting distanced from one another in the Karoly’s front yard, soaking in the sounds of longed-for concert halls and feeling thankful for a few moments of peace and pleasure.

“We’ve both been in the orchestra for almost 25 years,” says Cathy. “For me it’s not an option to stop playing, especially at a time like this.”

(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

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Rolling Hills Estates

Len Pagarigan, saxophone

Len Pagarigan has been playing saxophone for 70 years. He began learning at age 5 in Hawaii, and went on to play with various bands over the years while juggling a career in telecommunications. When the safer-at-home order went into effect in March, Pagarigan’s concerts were canceled and he found he really missed performing for an audience.

“I thought, ‘Let me open my doors and play my saxophone to the air,’ I didn’t realize anyone was listening,” Pagarigan says, adding that he soon realized they were. “If people don’t expect it, when you do a performance it’s like a reward for them to sit and listen.”

(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

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Norwalk

Andres O’Neil, piano

Pianist and Air Force cadet Andres O’Neil began playing covers in his driveway during the early days of quarantine. He posted them to YouTube, and you can always hear an enthusiastic crowd in the background.

O’Neil is currently in basic training and no longer playing for his neighborhood, but he wrote via text that he truly loved, “bringing joy to my street and my community in a time of hardship.”

(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)