Please note: The Beverly Review is providing this article for free due to a generous grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has all but shut down the music scene in Chicago.
Concert venues are closed, and large crowds haven’t been able to gather for three months—and they will likely not be able to for several more months.
In response, the Beverly Area Planning Association (BAPA) this month introduced an innovative way to help local musicians earn a few dollars and increase their exposure.
From 6 to 7 p.m. on every Friday in June, BAPA is hosting a Friday Night Live Porch Concert Series, with musicians performing in front of the Beverly home of BAPA Executive Director Mary Jo Viero.
The concerts are streamed live on BAPA’s Facebook page.
Viero said the series is another opportunity for BAPA to serve the community.
“We tried so hard the whole quarantine to help small businesses, but there were a lot of other people affected,” Viero said. “Musicians are sitting at home. They can’t perform; they can’t go out, and I just felt so bad. So, I felt like let’s do something where we can shine a light [on them]. I had always wanted to do a front porch concert because I used to go to the North Side, and I’ve seen them on the North Side. So, I said, ‘This is a great opportunity to do that. Let’s try it.’ I’m always like, ‘Let’s just try it and see.’”
The Megan Curran Combo, a jazz band led by a Beverly resident, performed on June 12, a week after the concert by Matt, Zach and Tom, a rock trio.
Cloud of Shame, a rock ’n’ roll band, will perform this Friday, June 19, and Tom Rezetko, of Beverly, will join Grammy Award-winning blues artist Billy Flynn to conclude the series on June 26.
For as many issues as society is dealing with right now, Mother Nature has cooperated.
“We’ve been really blessed with good weather,” Viero said. “The bands are amazing. It’s just perfect for this environment right now. People just need a little uplift. The bands need a little uplift.”
The Megan Curran Combo consists of Curran on keyboard, as well as Keith Brady (bassist), Steve Hawk (drums) and Ed Enright (saxophone).
Curran said they are all part of the Outcast Jazz Band and haven’t played together since March, when the public health crisis began.
She is grateful for Viero offering her home as a performance venue.
“They had a perfect patio,” Curran said. “It was perfect weather, and it was a perfect, beautiful setting. It was just nice be part of.”
Viewers of the concert series can leave tips online, but Curran said her band’s proceeds will support the Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry and the Together Now Fund, the latter of which is Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s $10-million effort to rebuild neighborhoods.
Viero called the musicians’ gesture “so sweet.”
Curran said the band strives to see the big picture.
“On one hand, we’re musicians who haven’t worked,” Curran said, “and on the other hand, it’s an opportunity for us to help everyone since it’s a challenging time all around.”
In her “heart of hearts,” Viero hopes the porch concert series will continue after June, with local residents running with the idea and BAPA assisting the effort.
Viero said she wished the most recent concert had been bigger—but the stay-at-home order limits what she can do.
“I wanted to block off the street,” Viero said. “Obviously, right now we can’t do that.
“So, this is our second choice. It’s perfect. There’s so many great local musicians.”