Wolseley residents join in neighbourhood singalongs — from a safe distance

Neighbours spread out in front of homes, picked up instruments and raised their voices to the tune of the Beatles on Saturday under the sun in Wolseley.

Neighbours unite over Beatles songs as they try to beat isolation, observe social distancing

People practising self-isolation are brought together by music but at a safe distance in Wolseley. (Kevin Nepitabo/CBC)

Community members in Wolseley are practising social distancing in their own way, serenading neighbours, dog walkers and passersby but from a safe distance. 

More than a dozen individuals and families spread out in front of their homes and raised their voices to the tune of Yellow Submarine by the Beatles on Saturday afternoon, under sunny skies on Canora Street.

Why Yellow Submarine? "Because that song also evokes both connection and isolation," explained Tabitha Langel, who encouraged residents to pick up instruments and join in the singalong.

She said the idea for performing a collective song came up in a neighbourhood group chat, where residents have been sharing news about the pandemic and their thoughts from self isolation.

"We're kind of feeling isolated, and so I was trying to think of how could we stay connected and isolated at the same time," she said.

Langel said the local movement was driven by a global initiative.

"The Italians showed us the way — you open your windows and you sing," she said.

Videos of people in Italy taking to their balconies and belting out songs — viewed millions of times around the world — have helped unite residents in that country, which continues its lock down due to COVID-19.

Langel's husband plays ukulele and guitar, a next door neighbour on one side is a music teacher, and another musician lives on the other side. Together they made up a makeshift band.

"We're just standing on our steps, or coming a bit closer, but practise staying pretty far apart," said Langel.

"We truly want to make sure the social distance is kept, and it'll be very hard not to say, 'Oh, come in for a coffee after,' but we won't. We'll wave at each other and go inside."

Residents in Wolseley perched outside porches to sing Beatles songs on Saturday. (Kevin Nepitabo/CBC)

Performing from a social distance

A few hours after the province entered a 30-day COVID-19-prompted state of emergency on Friday, local tribute band Free Ride kept their distance when they performed with the windows open from a third-floor studio near the corner of Lipton Street and Westminster Avenue.

Their renditions of O Canada, Imagine by John Lennon, and Hey Jude by the Beatles rang out from the third floor studio.

"Everybody was applauding, having a great time," said Craig Wallace, one of the performers who hosted the show.

"I think it brought a little bit of distancing for everybody from all the social media and all the bad stuff, a little bit of a break from reality, a little bit of normality," he said.

Wolseley neighbours sang Yellow Submarine by the Beatles Saturday on Canora Street. (Kevin Nepitabo/CBC)

The public health order issued Friday bans large gatherings of more than 50 people and allows the province to prosecute people or businesses that refuse to comply.

As of late Saturday afternoon, Manitoba has identified 19 cases of COVID-19, and there are more than 1,300 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada.

Artists in isolation

The last time Free Ride performed in a similar unconventional venue — from the rooftop of a local radio station — Wallace said the Beatles tribute band brought traffic in Osborne Village to a halt.

This time around, band mates have been cooped up in self-isolation for several weeks after having upcoming shows cancelled.

"Oh, it's tough for sure," he said. In the mean time, he has been hunkering down in his home recording studio and focusing on writing songs.

"It gets a little stir crazy, let me tell you," he said.

To counter the feeling of being confined in closed quarters, Wallace is encouraging people to participate in more singalongs.

"It would be really cool if all the streets at one point could determine one song to sing and just everybody stand outside at their steps and just sing at the top of their lungs," he said.

With files from Caitlyn Gowriluk and The Canadian Press