Lawns and sidewalks become pandemic concert halls

The Overdressed Duo
The Overdressed Duo — pianist Elizabeth Chua and opera singer Carole Schultz — perform a lawn concert in Fulton on Sept. 25. Photo by Becca Most

As the “Overdressed Duo” set up their microphones and plugged in their electric keyboard, the soft whoosh of bikes passing by and the low rumble of cars pulling into drive- ways sounded like any other Friday night in Fulton. As 6 p.m. neared, a half dozen neighbors walked down the sidewalk, carrying lawn chairs and blankets and settling in to listen to the neighborhood’s weekly concert.

So far, said the fashionable twosome — Elizabeth Chua and Carole Schultz — they haven’t gotten any noise complaints.

Musicians have gotten creative during the pandemic in navigating how to continue performing despite the loss of gigs, concerts and practices. Performing for their neighbors and outside local restaurants, many artists are ending the summer on a high note.

Chua and Schultz have been performing together outside since July. Chua is a professional pianist living in Fulton and Schultz a classical opera singer who lives near the University of Minnesota. The two have been friends for nearly five years and share a love of music and dressing up.

When the pandemic hit, Chua was on tour in Virginia and Schultz was playing with Journey North Opera Company, which has since transitioned to virtual practice.

“Everything else has been canceled since then; it’s actually quite sad for the music community,” Chua said. “For us, it’s like: Let’s not sit around and be sad and mope. Let’s just get up and do what we can— which is sing and play and still make music.”

The duo will play anything from opera arias to Disney songs and American folk tunes. And they’ve captured a loyal audience of neighbors who flock to see them each week. Schultz said she likes

the flexibility of being able to choose the style of music they play and perform before audiences who wouldn’t have seen them otherwise. She said it has also helped her self-confidence as an artist and given her the opportunity to perform without many of the rules associated with opera.

“[It] has been incredibly freeing,” Schultz said. “I really feel like this is a chance to be the artist that I want to be and say what I have to say, through this music, instead of trying to fit into a mold that is always shifting.”

Chua and Schultz said they want to keep performing until it gets too cold to play. When that happens, they plan to record videos inside and post them on their Facebook page.

Outdoor violinist

Rebecca Corruccini, a violinist who lives in Lowry Hill East, said her last indoor concert with the Minnesota Orchestra was on March 13.

Since then she’s played a couple of front-yard duets for her neighbors with a cellist from the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. She’s seen other orchestra members perform on social media in their driveway, at a local park and on their balcony.

This summer, Corruccini has also played in a quartet configuration in Peavey Plaza, part of the Minnesota Orchestra’s outdoor concert series during the pandemic. And she has participated in the orchestra’s Music on Your Doorstep program, which brings some members of the orchestra to homes of loyal opera patrons for personal (socially distanced) performances.

“This is a very challenging time,” she said. “If there’s something that I can do that is appreciated by some of my neighbors, and if it brightens somebody’s day a little bit, then that makes me really happy.”

With the weather getting colder, Corruccini said, it’ll be more challenging to play as a string player. To combat the wind, she said, she has a couple of extra clothespins on her porch to hold down her sheet music.

Music for a cause

During the evening on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, you can usually find Elgin Foster on the sidewalk in Linden Hills, outside The Harriet Brasserie and Everett & Charlie, playing his acoustic guitar.

Foster wasn’t hired by either business, but he said he wants to guide traffic into these local shops.

A full-time musician from Savage, Foster lost most of his regular gigs in March and has since been teaching music lessons for the St. Paul School of Music via video call. After seeing the economic fallout of the pandemic on local shops and non-profits, Foster said he wanted to help out.

Since June he’s been serving as an intermediary between shop owners looking for live music and musicians looking for places to play. In the future he plans to set up a live-streamed monthly concert series to encourage viewers to donate to local nonprofits.

“It’s inherent in our blood that we want to play and perform for people,” he said. “During this dark time, it’s something that’s good for everybody.”

Although he normally doesn’t play for tips or exposure, Foster said the experience has helped him build a fan base. He has even been booked for birthday parties and weddings by passersby, and he said he’s rolling with whatever punches 2020 sends his way.

“People are coming out in the neighborhood saying, ‘Oh, this is so great. We have something to look forward to,’” he said. “And that makes me happy when I can do that for somebody.”