Every night, after the 7 p.m. cheer for frontline workers, a chorus of voices can be heard coming from a Victoria neighbourhood as residents come together for a singalong.
Chamberlain Street residents have found a new way to spend time together from a distance. Each night, neighbours come out of their homes – many with lyrics and instruments in hand – and come together for a joyful song while practising social distancing.
The goal of the nightly singalongs is to raise people’s spirits amid the pandemic, said resident Susan Martin. She’s not sure who initially came up with the idea but the singalongs have become part of the neighbourhood routine and the highlight of Martin’s day.
The group has sung everything from “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” by Randy Newman to “With A Little Help From My Friends” by The Beatles, Martin said. After singing the song of the night, the neighbours choose a song for the following evening so everyone has time to find the lyrics and maybe practise a chorus or two.
“We’re on a friendship theme,” she explained. The neighbours have been selecting songs with “themes of relationships and relying on one another.”
After inviting residents from nearby streets to join in the fun, Martin said that there are now about 20 singers each night. She added that singing out loud with others is fun and helps create a sense of community even when people can’t truly get together.
Martin pointed out that she lives alone and has found the pandemic-induced isolation difficult. It’s made her notice how much the little conversations and pleasantries “grease our days.” The ritual of meeting with others for a nightly singalong gives her something to look forward to. She added that several neighbours are frontline workers and the songs are also an homage to their hard work.
“It’s the most meaningful part of my day,” Martin said.
The singalong on the evening of April 21 was extra special for Chamberlain Street residents; after the group belted out “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers accompanied by tambourines, drums, pots and pans, they followed up with a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday” and a car parade to help neighbour Maia McKinley mark her 50th birthday.
McKinley was “overwhelmed” when her neighbours began to sing to her. The Oak Bay High School alum noted that “Lean On Me” was her grad song, which made the evening one to remember.