Adrian Garratt is a professional violinist who has been performing ‘doorstep concerts’ for the local community during lockdown. Here, he talks about being there for special occasions, unusual requests and how to book.
I’ve lived in Honor Oak for five years with my wife and two sons. I usually perform in hospitals – through various hospital arts teams (rb&hArts and CW+) and Breathe Arts Health Research - and I also play in orchestras and at street festivals.
After lockdown was announced, all my hospital gigs were, understandably, cancelled as the hospitals prepared for COVID-19. I’ve worked with the arts teams and made efforts to do things online - for example, I play for an hour a week live to a closed Facebook group of transplant patients. However, it’s impossible to replicate playing to people in person, which I think has a huge value for many in hospital. It’s a chance to engage with someone who isn’t a medical professional or family member, and patients have told me it gives them an emotional boost.
The idea for the doorstep concerts came about when I performed for a friend’s 40th birthday in early April. When I played ‘Happy Birthday’ and a couple of other tunes, his neighbours came out of their homes to listen and one even brought a guitar to jam along! I could see that the concert had created a special, shared experience and, after a bit of convincing from friends, I decided to offer them out to the community.
During lockdown, I’ve performed about 2-3 times a day, including many birthdays, wedding anniversaries and general cheer-ups. A lot of the time I’m booked as a surprise which is lovely – it was particularly hard celebrating special occasions a couple of months ago when you could hardly leave the house, so I hope that the doorstep concerts have created special moments in people’s lives. I was even asked to perform at a funeral procession. The hearse drove up the street so neighbours could say goodbye – it was incredibly poignant.
Sometimes I’m requested to perform quite general things – like songs from shows - and sometimes the requests are more specific. For example, one woman just wanted Mozart, and an opera singer wanted half an hour of music she could sing along to. However, I have a broad repertoire and can play music from many genres, with Abba, the Beatles and Star Wars frequently requested. I even performed Metallica recently!
I do enjoy being asked to play songs I’ve never performed before, as it gives me a challenge. A few weeks ago, a couple asked me to play an Ed Sheeran song that I didn’t know, on the day that they were supposed to be getting married. They were very touched that I’d learnt the song especially, and it was lovely to be able to play it for them.
It will be interesting to see if the enthusiasm for the doorstep concerts is maintained beyond lockdown. I would love to continue them – it’s local and joyous. Plus, I’ve gotten to know the area in much more detail having performed in streets that I’ve never been to before.
It’s also been great working so close to home and spending more time with my wife and kids. My sons are four and seven and have found the situation very strange and are missing their friends. However, they’ve got used to Dad popping out at odd times to play doorstep concerts for people, and have even been to a couple of street cheer-up performances! I cycle to the concerts, and like many families, we’ve enjoyed being out together on our bikes much more during lockdown.
My brilliant wife, also a freelancer in the arts, has some time on her hands and is much more organised than me, so has been managing bookings for the doorstep concerts. If you’re interested, please contact Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org. A 15 minute doorstep concert within three miles of our address in SE23 is £25, and gigs for NHS staff in this area are free. I’ve had requests from further afield too, so 3-4 miles is £30, 4-5 miles is £40, and so on. If you’d like a longer concert, each extra 15 minutes is £25. I’m happy to reduce the price for people in financial hardship.
The doorstep concerts Facebook page is here and, if you’ve already enjoyed a doorstep concert, please leave a review. You can also follow me @doorstepconcerts - if you post any pictures or videos, do include #doorstepconcerts.
I look forward to playing for some of you soon!
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