Throughout the pandemic, Torontonians tried any way they could to fight the isolation and dread that COVID-19 inspired in so many.
One neighbourhood did it by raising their voices in song. For 500 consecutive days, residents joined together starting at 6 p.m.on Saint Paul Street in Corktown to sing their worries away.
Niki Kemeny and Tyler Davidson started the whole thing.
“It was an opportunity for everybody in our neighbourhood to get together, connect, see each other, all during COVID, which was a difficult time for many people,” Kemeny said.
The neighbourhood began singing together on March 22, 2020, almost a week after the first lockdown was declared. Back then, the neighbours stepped on their porches and sang together from afar. Tuesday was the 500th — and last — day.
“It was a very digital world, people were feeling anxious, isolated and alone,” Kemeny said. “Particularly at that time, sing-along was a great opportunity to see someone in person, speak with someone, even if it was across the street.”
It gave neighbours something to do, when there wasn’t much else to do, Davidson added.
But as knowledge of the novel coronavirus grew, vaccinations increased, and restrictions eased, the neighbours spent more time together on the street, continuing a daily pandemic ritual that kept them connected.
A ‘sense of community’
Some brought a tambourine or a drum to play along. Others — new homeowners in the neighbourhood — heard the singing and popped out to join their neighbours.
Kemeny and Davidson would email their neighbours, informing them of the song of the day, coupled with some news, and a joke. On holidays or special occasions, the singalongs even had their own themes.
“When we started we thought maybe we’ll do 30 days, or 50, then we got to 100, and we’ve just kept adding them,” Davidson said.
“We got to 500 and we thought it was about time to wrap it up. People are getting back to normal life so they don’t need to have the neighbourhood sing-along as much as people needed it through the tough parts of COVID.”
It wasn’t just neighbours on St. Paul Street. Dog-walkers, joggers, and just about anyone who strolled through found themselves enjoying the music.
“We’ve made friends with people beyond our street,” Kemeny said.
“Even though the sing-along will end, we’re going to maintain that sense of community.”