Singing through a pandemic: Neighborhood trio hits 500-day mark with daily performances | COVID-19
TRAVERSE CITY – The 12th Street Intrepids vocal trio may not be nominated for a Grammy anytime soon, but if there was a “most back-to-back” category they would surely get away with a gold-plated gramophone.
Their 500th appearance took place on Friday. That’s 500 in a row, no days off, since March 20, 2020, shortly after the start of the COVID-19 shutdown.
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“It really is a therapy tool,” said Nancy Bordine, one of the group’s core members. “We did that to deal with it. Sometimes it’s the only time you have a real human connection. “
Also in the group are Corky Kohler and her daughter Heather, who live next door. They were called The Intrepids by neighbors, who often stop by to add their voices or to dance the macarena. Attendees also include kids, FedEx drivers, joggers, dog walkers, and even an elderly gentleman getting back in shape after a stroke.
The group’s Friday act opened a hound mix from across the street with “I’ve Got a Dog,” a song by Dwight Yoakam that was sung only for Chuck.
Chuck’s owner Tim Wharton said he and the dog love listening to the group. Wharton and his three children have never participated, but they often cheered them on from their porch, he said.
“It’s fantastic,” said Wharton. “Nancy is, so to speak, the arbiter of joy and sunshine in the neighborhood.”
When a member goes on vacation, they attend remotely – something that has become the standard fare during the pandemic. And like the postman who often stops by and sometimes does the Hokey Pokey, they don’t hold up snow, rain, heat, or darkness.
“Sometimes we have technical problems,” says Corky Kohler. “Sometimes we have sun disturbances, sometimes wind, sometimes it’s too cold.”
Kohler was even stung by a wasp during a performance.
But the show has to go on.
“We just keep showing up, no matter what the circumstances,” said Kohler. “Singing makes it easier.”
Bordine said it was the only thing they could count on every day, especially during the shutdown when everything was closed and people were locked up at home.
“It’s for us – to stand up and keep going,” said Bordine, describing the group’s style as “little old lady optimistic.”
The group was inspired by the Italian opera singer who serenaded his quarantined neighbors in Florence from his balcony. But unlike opera, The Intrepids choose songs that are easy to sing along to.
They play oldies, country and folk songs, and spiritual music. They celebrated Women’s Month in February with songs from the Supremes and Helen Reddy’s liberation hymn “I Am Woman”. And when Ruth Bader Ginsberg died, they wore white lace collars in her honor and sang “If I Had a Hammer”.
“Baby Shark” is a crowd-pleaser after several children across the street taught the group the shark-bite gestures that are part of the popular song. Then there is “Tooty Ta” with his “thumbs up, elbows back, feet apart, knees together” and of course the chicken dance song – all of this helps to keep you warm on cold days.
“When it rains, we take out our brightly colored umbrellas and hop through the puddles,” said Bordine as he sang the Gene Kelly classic, “Singin ‘in the Rain.”
They even do a little Bob Marley.
“We pretty much hit everything,” said Kohler, except heavy metal and rap.
While a lot of the songs they pick are silly, the group likes to end their daily shows with something inspiring. Kohler’s favorite song is “Sing” by the Carpenters, whose lyrics encourage singing of good, not bad, and happy, not sad things.
Their 30-minute performances are at 11:30 am Monday through Saturday and 1:00 pm on Sundays in Block 300 on West 12th Street.
How long do Bordine and the Kohlers want to hold out in their everyday lives?
“We’ll keep going for as long as it feels good and works,” said Kohler. “That’s what it’s about – feeling good and laughing.”
“Maybe we’ll never stop,” said Bordine.