Brooklynites join together in song during coronavirus quarantine

coronavirus sing along
Elana Gartner Golden and David Golden sang with their daughter from their Bergen Street house.
Photo by Rose Adams

Hundreds of Brooklynites gathered on their rooftops and stoops on Thursday evening for a borough-wide sing-along that featured American classics, such as “Sweet Caroline” and “I Will Survive.”  

“The idea is for folks to disconnect from their devices and connect with their community,” said JJ Berney, a Park Slope resident who organized the sing-along to bring locals together during the coronavirus outbreak. “In this environment we can’t touch people with our hands, but we can touch people with our voices.” 

Berney said he decided to start the “Sing-alone sing-along” after his friend in Italy told him about how Italians took to their balconies to play music — bringing residents together during the country-wide lockdown.

“They found a way to release the tension and be with people in a way they couldn’t before,” said Berney. “I found that pretty powerful.” 

Berney started a Facebook event called the “Brownstone Brooklyn COVID-19 Singalone (Singalong)” on Thursday morning, and it quickly gained traction. By the sing-along’s start time at 6:30 pm, nearly 400 people had marked themselves “attending” and nearly 900 said they were “interested.” Participants posted their cross streets on the event page to encourage their neighbors to join them, and Stella Artois beer said it would send a free beer to anyone who participated.

To make sure everyone sang the same songs in unison, singers assembled a list of popular tunes in a shared Google Document, which Berney turned into a karaoke playlist on YouTube. Singers began the playlist at 6:30 pm, when they crooned along to classics such as Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” and Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me.”

coronavirus sing along
JJ Berney (right) and his family spearheaded the March 20 “Sing-alone sing-along.”Courtesy JJ Berney

One participant, who sang with her husband and daughter from their Bergen Street stoop, said the event helped relieve her anxiety from the coronavirus outbreak.

“I know that singing helps the soul and I really needed help for the soul right now. I wanted to feel like I was a part of a community,” said Elana Gartner Golden. “Even though my neighbors didn’t participate, we saw some of them and it made some people smile. We all need smiles right now. It’s the only way we’re going to make it through.”

Berney, who sang on his rooftop with his family, heard about six other households crooning around him. He said he wasn’t surprised by the event’s popularity, given the widespread isolation and anxiety the virus has caused, and said he’s planning another sing-along this weekend.

We’re going to try to do it again Saturday or Sunday night,” he said, explaining that he’s trying to find a way to connect participants via a live video stream. “I would expect the numbers [of singers] are going to get larger.”