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Concerts have not entirely stopped during the crisis; in Woodstock, though, they happen in a front yard

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - An informal group local professionals whimsically called the Social Distance Band plays on the front porch of musician Les Zigethy (center, with accordion) - with harmonizing by Dale Jones (left) and Ann Heyen (right). Barbara Zigethy was their audience, as the photo was taken. Their bi-weekly front-yeard concerts are a good isolation outlet. In Inner Southeast Portland, here and there, now and then, musicians are providing a little cheer and diversion from COVID-19 coronavirus isolation – by putting on personal concerts from their front porches, lawns, or apartment balconies. Here's the story of just one such performance.

On April 26th, Woodstock resident Les Zigethy – who, in pre-pandemic times, frequently brought his band "Status Crow" to Woodstock Community Center for festive community events – sent out an e-mail for an impromptu concert he and his neighbors were planning.

At 2 p.m. on that cloudy Sunday afternoon, Zigethy played the accordion while neighbor Dale Jones played guitar. Jones, and his wife Ann Heyen, harmonized as the three performed an eclectic mix of tunes. A few of their choices were "Kansas City", the rock and roll song made a #1 hit by Wilbert Harrison in 1959; "Friend of the Devil", a Grateful Dead favorite; and "Night Riders' Lament", which Zigethy describes as a sort of country-folk song. 

Jones has a contra tenor voice, and he and Heyen sing harmony. (Contra tenor is a type of classical male singing style, whose vocal range is equivalent to that of the female voice). As Zigethy later commented, "Dale and Ann sing some of the sweetest harmonies you have ever heard."

This impromptu performance was not by amateurs, either. Zigethy plays accordion, string bass, guitar, and electric bass; he started on the accordion at eight years old during the time of Lawrence Welk, then went on to play bass and saxophone in high school, and he later earned a BA and MA in bass in college. He has played in the Casinos in Atlantic City, and blues clubs in Florida, and reconnected with the accordion eight years ago. Jones plays most string instruments, including guitar, string bass, banjo, mandolin, and ukulele. Heyen plays guitar and mandolin. 

Zigethy says they have been performing together in various combinations for about eight years. He is modest about their work, remarking, "We consider our gigs as practice sessions!" When asked by THE BEE about whether there's a name for this trio, he answered, "We thought that an appropriate name for this combination might be 'The Social Distance Band'. We sound best from at least six feet away!"

If you missed that little concert, they plan to return to the same porch "every other Sunday", at S.E. 43rd Avenue and Reedway, at 2 p.m. – weather permitting. If you stop by at this time on any given Sunday and nothing is happening, try again one week later at the same time.

To follow pandemic protocols, Zigethy assures, "I should mention that we try to observe social distancing guidelines as much as possible. We do not allow crowds to gather. Most folks walk or ride bikes by, stop and listen for a couple of minutes, then move on. Our goal is to have them move on with a smile."


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