Video: L.A. Phil musicians give porch recitals for their Pasadena neighbors

Jonathan and Cathy Karoly play on their porch

Jonathan and Cathy Karoly sit on their porch. Jonathan holds a cello, Cathy cradles a flute. The morning light on this Sunday filters through the trees towering over their Craftsman home, and a crowd of neighbors and passersby gathers, observing social distancing etiquette.

A printout taped to the brick gate reveals the program: Bach, Turina, Mozart, Saint-Saens and Piazzolla.

This husband-and-wife team is not fooling around. Both are musicians in the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which was sidelined in early April when the company announced the cancellation of the remainder of its 2019-20 season.

Cathy said that, even though that news was somewhat expected, it still felt sudden. One day the orchestra was playing concerts, and the next it wasn’t.

As the Karolys sheltered at home with their three children, they found they were practicing even more than usual. Jonathan took the unprecedented amount of free time he suddenly had to learn and record all six Bach cello suites, and Cathy began learning Luciano Berio’s Sequenza 1 for flute with the intention of recording and streaming it as part of the L.A. Phil’s annual new-music “Noon to Midnight” event, which the orchestra may try to launch digitally.


Still, something was missing. The Karolys had heard stories of musicians, including friends and neighbors, performing on their porches during the shutdown. After working through the logistics of how to best use their yard, they decided to give it a try.

Beong-Soo Kim and Bonnie Wongtrakool play cello and piano every weekend. For neighbors in lockdown, the music provides an escape, if only for an hour.

“We didn’t really tell anyone because we thought we’d see what happens,” Jonthan says of their first recital, which drew a steady stream of masked onlookers, including some L.A. Phil subscribers happy for the chance to hear the music they miss.

“It’s a privilege to get to play for people who want to listen,” Cathy says of the experience, which has proved rewarding in this challenging time.

She says she feels the experience is made even more special by the fact that they are not getting paid, which has allowed them, as professional musicians, to revisit music for the sheer love of it.

“The more colleagues I told, the more they wanted to start doing it,” she says, adding that maybe when the stay-at-home orders begin easing, musicians will join one another six feet apart on lawns. “I think the desire to do this is spreading. A lot of people are starting to miss playing.”

A former contestant on “The Voice” leads a weekly performance in her Upland cul-de-sac where neighbors connect to get through the pandemic together.