For 15 years, Adam Chester has subbed for Elton John, performing John’s parts in rehearsals with the rocker’s band. But with John sitting out the pandemic, Chester had to find another gig.
And he did: weekly, socially distant concerts in his suburban Los Angeles cul-de-sac.
Which is how Chester has come to serenade a few dozen of his face-masked neighbors from inside a broad rectangle of rainbow chalk with “Social distance” and a heart written at its edge. They dance to John’s “Crocodile Rock” and sing along to the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.”
They call this “Quaranchella,” and it has become a source of community and connection at a time when they’re sorely lacking.
“It’s been an incredible experience,” said Chester’s wife, Maria, who serves as his road crew along with their two teenage sons. “It kind of organically happened because he needed to play, and it’s been evolving.”
Chester jokes about his role as John’s substitute — “He’s Sir Elton and I’m ‘Sur’ Elton, with a ‘u,’ the surrogate Elton John” — but his career has not been spent entirely in the superstar’s shadow.
He played a major role in the 2018 Grammy salute to Elton John at New York’s Madison Square Garden. And he also played his own club and party gigs, but the lockdown put a halt to that.
“I was going out of my mind inside the house here as a lot of musicians are,” Chester said. “I thought, ‘Why don’t we take this outside once a week?’”
The most recent show, on Mother’s Day eve, had a maternal theme. Chester’s own mother, who raised him alone after his father died when he was 11, sat behind him in his front yard.
Chester sat at his keyboard, a small amp alongside, and opened the show with his friend, saxophonist Katja Rieckermann, standing at a safe distance for a ripping rendition of Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” on the day the rock legend died.
He played “That’s the Way of the World,” recounting how his mother took him to an Earth, Wind & Fire concert when he was a child: “We had to leave after 10 minutes because she said it was too loud.”
He played Elton John’s “Mama Can’t Buy You Love.” Joined by singer Jenny Karr, he played “Stacy’s Mom” by Fountains of Wayne — a jokey song, but one that shows that the cul-de-sac concerts are not entirely light-hearted. Its co-writer, Adam Schlesinger, died last month of COVID-19. He was joined on the song, as he was on several others, by singer Jenny Karr, a friend of Schlesinger.
Chester said “there wasn’t a dry eye on the block” one recent evening when he played Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer,” the favorite song of one neighbor’s dying father.
Each show also raises money for charity. This week it was Single Mothers Outreach.
The response from neighbors has been overwhelmingly positive.
“All week I look forward to that Saturday show,” said neighbor Lisa Silver, who along with others pitched in to buy a tripod to hold Chester’s phone so the shows can be streamed on Facebook.
Exhilarated after the concert, Chester said these Saturday night shows may outlast the quarantine era.
“I can’t imagine going back to anything normal after this,” he said.
While nonstop global news about the effects of the coronavirus have become commonplace, so, too, are the stories about the kindness of strangers and individuals who have sacrificed for others. “One Good Thing” is an AP continuing series reflecting these acts of kindness.
Billie Eilish took to social media on Wednesday (May 13) to announce the postponement of her Where Do We Go? World Tour amid the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic.
“Unfortunately for everyone’s safety we have to postpone the rest of the shows this year,” the singer wrote in a message to fans on her Instagram Stories. “My team and i are working to reschedule everything and i promise i’ll let you know as soon as we can. Stay safe.”
(Eilish played just the first three shows of the tour in support of her smash debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, back in March — in Miami, Orlando and Raleigh, N.C. — before hitting pause on the rest of the North American dates due to the public health crisis.)
The multi-Grammy winner’s team also made a statement about the tour’s postponement on Twitter, promising fans that “all tickets will be honored accordingly” once new dates are booked and urging them to “stay safe and stay home.” Meanwhile, the teen pop star has been keeping busy in quarantine by cooking up some new music at home with older brother and collaborator Finneas.
Check out Eilish’s full announcement below.
Pete Yorn premiered the video for his new single “I Wanna Be the One” on Thursday (May 14), exclusively to Billboard.
In the black-and-white clip filmed by his wife Beth, Yorn takes a quiet stroll with his young daughter, exploring the beach and adorably embracing on a deserted golf course. “I wanna be the one to watch you/ I wanna be the one to talk you through/ Can’t think of anything else I ever wanted to do/ I wanna be the one,” the rocker intones on the chorus over gently dancing guitar and steady percussion.
“When my first and only daughter Bee was born, people were immediately asking me how it had changed my songwriting. I didn’t have an answer; I wasn’t even writing at the time,” Yorn tells Billboard. “Then around the time she was nine or 10 months old, we were sitting home alone, just her and I on her play mat and she sat up, and I remember just thinking, ‘I want to be the one to watch you. I want be the one to be there for you and to just be the best I can be for you in this new role.’ It also extends beyond just being a parent in that there’s this desire to show up for everyone in my life. And to be present and make a real connection.”
“I Wanna Be the One” serves as the latest single off the alt-rocker’s 2019 LP Caretakers. Yorn’s eighth studio album also features lead single “Calm Down,” which peaked at No. 6 on Billboard’s Adult Alternative Songs chart upon its release, giving the singer-songwriter his first Top 10 hit on the tally since 2009’s “Don’t Wanna Cry.”
Get a first look at the video for “I Wanna Be the One” below.
John Macurdy, a bass who sang 1,001 performances at the Metropolitan Opera over four decades and created characters in notable world premieres, has died at 91, his wife said Wednesday (May 13).
Macurdy died of natural causes on May 7 in Stamford, Connecticut, Justine Macurdy said.
His career included world premieres of Carlisle Floyd’s Wuthering Heights at the Santa Fe Opera in 1958, Hugo Weisgall’s Six Characters in Search of an Author at the New York City Opera in 1959, Abraham Ellstein’s The Golem at the City Opera in 1962, Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra on the opening night of the Met’s new house in 1966 and Marvin David Levy’s Mourning Becomes Electra at the Met in 1967.
While he did take star turns, his many “comprimario” roles, as opera’s supporting roles are known, increased his performance total to sixth among basses in Met history. He sang 62 roles with the company.
“Everyone who came here had done other roles, and because the Met had a need for certain parts, those roles were added to your contract, even though you might be singing so-called leading roles at the time,” Macurdy told Opera News in 2005.
Macurdy, was born on March 18, 1929 in Detroit. He would go on to study voice and also become a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, where he was a radar instructor. He was at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi when he did some coaching in New Orleans and was noticed by conductor Walter Herbert, general director of the New Orleans Opera. He would go on to make his professional debut with that opera on the opening night of the 1952-53 season.
Macurdy made his debut with the New York City Opera in April 1959 as Dr. Wilson in Weill’s Street Scene.
He was part of one of the early attempts at televised live opera in color, singing the Commendatore in Mozart’s Don Giovanni for NBC Opera Theatre on April 10, 1960, alongside Leontyne Price and Cesare Siepi.
Macurdy made his Met debut at the old house on Broadway on Dec. 8, 1962, and sang small roles in Verdi’s Aida, La Traviata and Otello, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Bellini’s La Sonnambula and Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov as that season went on.
While singing Alessio in La Sonnambula he was a cover for the Count Rodolfo, filled by singers of much higher profiles. Macurdy was having a drink across from the Old Met on a snowy Dec. 23, 1963, when George Schick of the Met conducting staff told him Georgio Tozzi, that night’s Rodolfo, would not be arriving in time.
“At 8:15 they made the announcement, and I went on and sang it,” Macurdy told Opera News, explaining how his performance drew the attention of a Met assistant general manager. “As a result of that, within two weeks I got a call from Robert Herman. This was the season of the new Aida. I did the King, but I was covering Ramfis. He asked if I’d like to do Ramfis, and Ferrando in Trovatore, and then came Gremin, Timur — just out of that!”
Macurdy became a stalwart of the Met. His final Met appearance was as Hagen in Wagner’s Götterdämmerung on May 6, 2000.
Macurdy also sang at the Paris Opera, Milan’s Teatro alla Scala and the Salzburg Festival.
Macurdy met pianist Justine Votypka at an annual opera workshop in 1955 and married her three years later. Besides his wife, he is survived by son John B. Macurdy, daughter Allison Hays and two grandchildren. A memorial will be held at a later date.