Dorothy Alexander was expecting a grocery delivery.
She also ended up getting a concert.
The 90-year-old Columbus resident said her daughter, Doncella, called April 19 to tell her she would be arriving soon with groceries and to make sure she was dressed.
Alexander had been wearing her housecoat. She changed and went to the door to find Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin standing there with musician Caroline Bennett.
Hardin didn’t have any groceries, and neither did Bennett, who performs as Caroline Inspires. Bennett sang gospel songs for Alexander and her neighbors, who came outside to watch.
“We were all clapping and swaying to the music,” Alexander said. “We had a good time.”
Alexander and other central Ohioans have received surprise shows designed to help ease feelings of isolation while they are socially distancing from friends and loved ones during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The Curbside Concert project is managed by Can’t Stop Columbus, a volunteer-driven initiative of Smart Columbus, said Jordan Davis, director of Smart Columbus for the nonprofit Columbus Partnership and co-organizer for Can’t Stop Columbus.
Porch concerts in Clintonville were the inspiration, she said.
The Columbus Foundation helped design the concept, Davis said, and the Greater Columbus Arts Council provides funding for the musicians to perform “mini concerts” of three to four songs.
People may request a free concert at sendaconcert.herokuapp.com and include a message to be read aloud to the recipient.
Davis said the goal is to connect with senior citizens and help with any loneliness they might be feeling. Older generations are most at risk for contracting the coronavirus, Davis said, and the elderly therefore might face more restrictions on where they can go and whom they can see.
“The world is just a lot riskier for them,” she said.
But social distancing doesn’t stop people from enjoying curbside shows.
Doncella Alexander, a Blacklick resident, said she requested a concert for Dorothy Alexander as a way to thank her mother for being such a good example of social distancing.
“It all just fell into place for a warm memory,” she said.
Hardin was helping with the Curbside Concert project April 19, Doncella Alexander said. He also helped unload groceries from her car.
Ordering groceries online helps her mother maintain her independence, Doncella Alexander said.
At 90, Dorothy Alexander still takes care of the majority of her needs within her home, Doncella Alexander said.
She said her mother has been calling family and friends throughout the country to check on them.
Performers have enjoyed the concerts, too.
Westerville resident KaTanya Ingram, 42, said people have listened to her songs from behind windows or storm doors. Some sit on the lawn, some stand in the street.
Ingram, who for the past 10 years has performed at the Gallery Hop in Columbus’ Short North, said she was part of an artist database used for the Curbside Concert shows because of her previous work with the Greater Columbus Arts Council.
On the way to each show, Ingram said, she and the driver will call the person who requested the show. They pull up close to the residence, and then Ingram gets out, knocks on the door and introduces herself.
One woman, she said, collapsed in tears in her husband’s arms.
Ingram said she will perform three or four songs for concert recipients – enough for them to feel appreciated without interrupting their day.
After singing her first song, she delivers the concert requester’s message to the recipient.
“That’s when the tears start,” Ingram said.
As a street performer, Ingram said, she is used to talking to people while performing.
She said she most enjoys the engagement the concerts offer – making people feel special and taking them out of their comfort zone with a gift far different than a card or flowers.
“Music is what feelings sound like,” she said.