Music plays a significant role in life at Kendal, and that role has been undermined by the measures taken in response to the Covid-19 threat.

The most obvious casualty has been concerts and performances by outside musicians. There is usually at least one performance, either classical or popular, scheduled every week. Those have all been cancelled.

The same is true of outside concerts. Many Kendal residents go to see the Philadelphia orchestra, performances by touring musicians, or some of the many local folk singers and bands. Starting March 6, we were asked not to attend large outside gatherings; and since then all concerts have been cancelled anyway.

Many Kendal residents are active in outside musical groups, which range from church choirs to bluegrass groups to local orchestras. Those rehearsals are all cancelled now. I myself am a member of an a cappella quartet that has been rehearsing twice a week for eleven years. We have stopped rehearsing until the Covid-19 outbreak subsides. (And of course, like all musical groups, we will not have any public performance opportunities for months to come.)

Within Kendal, there has always been a lot of musical activity. The most obvious example is the Kendal Singers, with roughly 50 residents involved. Those rehearsals are cancelled. On a less formal level, there have been monthly hymn-sings that involve a couple of dozen people. There are recorder groups and bell ringers. There have been several scheduled sing-alongs every week, either with guitar or piano. Since we cannot gather in groups, none of them can happen.  

I am involved in a four-person group at Kendal that has been getting together to sing madrigals. This has been an important activity for each of the four of us, and for a time it looked as if we might be able to continue it, since it did not exceed the “10-person gathering” guidelines that Kendal adopted early in the Covid-19 crisis. But no longer. We have put our singing on hold until the danger has subsided.

For now, the only music at Kendal is the recorded or on-line music we listen to at home, or the music we make alone. Our website has become a good source for recommendations about music available on the web and on television.

But for some of us, these sources of music are not enough. It is hard to explain to non-musicians the extraordinary pleasure to be found in working with others to achieve beautiful sounds that none of us can produce on our own. That can be one of life’s great pleasures, and it is unclear when we’ll be able to make music together again.