COVID-19 Roundup: The Gift Of Music; Helping Hands; Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! And what a way to celebrate, with this inspiring story.

Stephen Wall played in the legendary Staples High School band Smoke. After graduating in 1970, then earning a degree from the Hartt School of Music, he’s spent the past 40 years as a professional opera singer, primarily with the Seattle Opera. “La Bohème” would have been his 100th production, but the coronavirus put an end to that.

Stephen — whose wife Ginna is on the front lines, working at the University of Washington hospital — has been teaching Zoom lessons to private voice students during the crisis.

To get out of his basement studio, he took his string bass and a small speaker outside. To his surprise, neighbors out for a walk in his Ballard neighborhood stopped, smiled and chatted (from a distance). “They longed for a connection to the world they knew before,” Stephen says.

Last week, he brought a guitar amplifier outside. He hooked it up to some opera karaoke tracks, and began singing “popular Italian stuff.”

All week long, he sang outside. Friday’s performance of “Nessun Dorma,” from Puccini’s “Turandot,” was particularly memorable.

Now it’s been captured for eternity by Ginna, on YouTube. Listen to Stephen’s resonant voice. Check out the rapt attention of everyone, of all ages. Enjoy the applause at the end. Bellissimo! (Hat tip: Patty Graves and Mary Gai)

Jeremy Sherman graduated from Staples High School in 2013. He’s now in the MD/Ph.D. program at New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital, and volunteers at their free East Harlem clinic, serving people without health insurance.

More than 10% of their population have tested positive for COVID-19. Most have lost jobs; with little savings, they face food and housing insecurity.

Jeremy’s aunt, Suzanne Sherman Propp, asks “06880” readers to consider helping. Click here for details.

Jeremy Sherman

During the COVID-19 lockdown in China, Gao Ping composed “Bitter Cold Night” for violin and piano. The touching piece honored Li Wenliang, the 34-year-old doctor whose early warning about the virus was denounced by Chinese authorities. Dr. Li soon became one of the first fatalities of the disease.

Gao Ping chose Frederic Chiu — the internationally known pianist, who recently recorded a CD of his music — to premiere the piece.

Chiu — co-founder with his wife Jeanine Esposito of the Beechwood Arts & Innovation series, at their Weston Road home — performs the work this Wednesday (April 15) with his brother Cornelius Chiu, a longtime violinist in the Chicago Symphony.

Wednesday’s performance (6 to 7 p.m. EDT) airs during Beechwood’s Facebook Live event (click here). The hour includes other music, art, special guests and more.

This morning, Senator Richard Blumenthal joined Food for the Front Lines,  delivering several hundred Easter Sunday meals to healthcare workers at Stamford Hospital and St. Vincent’s Hospital in Bridgeport.

Food for the Front Lines was started by Westporter Nicole Straight, as a way to support both the Connecticut restaurant industry and healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Funds raised go to purchase meals for first responders and medical personnel.

Last month, Food for the Front Lines delivered meals to Westport EMS.

Meanwhile, my daily bike ride around town brought me to Christ & Holy Trinity Church’s well-masked, properly distanced, drive-by Easter Bunny.

Aarti Khosla — the generous owner of Le Rouge Aartisan Chocolates — created 200 Easter baskets. Thanks to the Westport Downtown Merchants Association, they were available to all (first come, first served). An Easter miracle!

“06880” blogger meets the Easter Bunny. Safely, of course. (Photo/Kevin Bidgood)

And finally: Whether you celebrate Easter or not, who can resist Judy Garland and Fred Astaire?

11 responses to “COVID-19 Roundup: The Gift Of Music; Helping Hands; Happy Easter!

  1. Roseann Spengler

    Puccini’s music gave me goose bumps. I was suppose to be in Sicily this week with my kids. What a beautiful treat. Thank you Dan.

  2. 💙💙

  3. I’m not a big opera fan, but I have to tell you that was great.

  4. After stumbling upon “The Wizard of Oz” on TCM yesterday, it was great to be updated on Judy Garland. Thanks, Dan Woog.

  5. Stephen Wall has magnificent voice. I loved the cat in the background too. Thanks, Dan. Mary Condon

  6. Its easy to see why its an honor to play rock and roll with that boy. Our time in SMOKE in high school didn’t overlap because I left too early. But our time together in SMOKE for the past 20 years has been a pleasure. We’re crushed not to be playing our 50th this August, but look forward to playing it in another year!! Bravo Maestro Stephen Wall!!!

  7. Vanessa Bradford

    Thank you Stephen. Victory victory victory! And stay well and sing well!

  8. Linda Pomerantz Novis

    Thanks so much for posting ‘The Easter Parade’,Dan!
    (one of my favorite Judy Garland movies! 🙂

  9. Hey Dan, glad you took to biking!! Looking good!

    • I used to ride a lot. Then I realized that biking on Westport streets was a good way to get killed. Now — with virtually no traffic — I’m back out there!

  10. Sylvia Corrigan

    Lovely interpretation of Nessun Dorma. I think the cat liked it, too, as it circled Stephen and settled down to listen to the whole aria. I can offer proof that cats (and dogs) like and can recognize songs and tunes! The neighbors seemed to like it too!