For emerging singer-songwriter Lovarra (also known as Corinne Friesen), a very natural impulse to add her voice in support of essential workers – and to encourage others in semi-quarantine – has turned into a new pandemic ritual at Five Corners.
After the customary pot-clanging of neighbours at 7 p.m., the White Rock resident now launches into a mini rooftop concert from the deck of her house near Five Corners Café.
And, gratifyingly, neighbours are not only telling her she’s helping lift their spirits, they’re also coming out onto their balconies each night to listen.
They’re being joined by passersby, and even some regular participants who come to the back alley to provide impromptu accompaniment with small drums and tambourines (observing correct social distancing, of course).
It’s been a surprising, but heartening, development, Lovarra said, considering the first performance was the result of a casual decision to take her stage speaker and microphone out on her deck one night after people had finished banging their pots and pans together.
“I cranked up my speaker and offered up a song,” said the performer, a former CBC radio host and popular yoga blogger, who started performing seriously in public only two years ago (her own self-recorded and mixed songs are currently streaming on platforms like Spotify, iTunes and Apple Music).
“It was Queen’s We Are the Champions – I picked it for its strong beat and uplifting chorus and because it’s one that a lot of people know,” she added.
“People began banging their pots to the beat. Others who weren’t already out on their balconies, came out for the show. They all gave me a round of pot banging as applause. So, I thought, since they seemed to enjoy that, I’d do it again next week.”
It was only two days later, however, as she was walking down Beachview Avenue, that one of her neighbours called down from her balcony.
“She asked me, ‘Where were you last night? We waited and you didn’t show up! It really made our night when you sang!'”
With that kind of feedback she felt sufficiently encouraged to make the concerts, Lovarra said.
“Other neighbours have been telling me that they wait for it, that it’s the highlight of their day; which feels really good, to know that I can do something that is helping people through difficult times. More and more people are coming out on their balconies for the concerts, and people are stopping on the street; many dancing or clapping along to the beats.”
Lovarra said that while she was concerned that social distancing would slip, people seem to be staying mindful of it.
“It’s building, and the energy people are bringing to it is uplifting,” she said.
She notes that while she usually does a single song each night, she has been convinced to expand the concert to 20 minutes on Saturdays, for those who wanted to keep dancing and “keep the good vibes going.”
“Everyone’s been really receptive to a wide variety of songs, across genres,” she said.
“I try to make most of the songs uplifting. We’ve done everything from Queen to Beatles to Andrews Sisters – songs from World War Two, especially, get people clapping along with their pots and pans. What seems to really reach them the most, though, are some of the slower songs, like Bridge Over Troubled Water and Andra Day’s Rise Up.”
While the pandemic has slowed down the production of her own material (“life has become a bit of a scramble,” she said) she’s at work at new releases to join her own originals – such as Victorious, Heart Wide Open, or the peppy, ragtimey Raghat Boogie – she has been slipping in among the standards.
She also notes – for people whose interest has been piqued by the concerts to want to hear more of her songs – that all her recent releases are in the CBC music library.
“You can call in to your favourite CBC show and request a Lovarra song and they’ll be able to find something for you,” she said. “And I’m hoping my next releases will especially inspire people – everyone seems to need that now,” she said.”
Through these concerts, Lovarra said, she’s also found she’s been getting to know her neighbours better and forging new friendships.
“One neighbour sent me a bouquet of flowers with a beautiful note thanking me for doing these evenings – that gesture blew me away,” she said.
“I love how music connects people, how it lifts us up during difficult times, consoles us, encourages us, helps us remember who we are. And if I can bring a small piece of that to people each night, then it’s worthwhile.”
And with more than 100 songs in her repertoire – plus a couple of dozen of her originals to choose from – Lovarra said she believes she will be able to keep the nightly show going for some time yet.
“Hopefully, we’ll run out of quarantine before I run out of songs,” she said.
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