A Peterborough porch has been transformed into a centre for music, art, and community throughout the pandemic. This summer, housemates Rosemary MacAdam and Tiphaine Lenaik are continuing to host a series of porch concerts at their Bonaccord Street home in Peterborough.
The idea for the series, which they’ve called “Waiting for the right porch”, was hatched during a conversation last spring between Tiphaine and former housemate Andy. According to Tiphaine, she and Andy were sitting on their front porch discussing how they would entertain themselves over the summer with COVID-19 restricting their options.
“We have this beautiful home with a huge front porch, so we thought maybe we could host something socially distanced from the porch,” Tiphaine recalls. “We then heard live music happening on our street, so we walked over to it. It was these teenagers practising their instruments. So we asked them if they wanted to play our first porch concert.”
That first concert was small and intimate, with an audience of fewer than 10 people. Tiphaine and Rosemary began garnering a larger audience through email invites to friends and family and by inviting their immediate neighbours.
As the series continued throughout last summer, audiences grew through word of mouth while maintaining an intimate neighbourhood vibe. Up to 25 people brought their lawn chairs and sat physically distanced on the property. Beyond that then-permitted audience size, passersby were invited to watch from the sidewalk.
The variety of performers grew along with audience size. With their connections to the Peterborough Academy of Circus Arts, Rosemary and Tiphaine invited some circus performer friends — such as fire performers and clowns — to perform.
“We had such an awesome time last year, and it snowballed into something that we got really excited about,” Tiphaine reflects. “We got a lot of new performers and connections through people who were already performing.”
In addition to being a fun and entertaining project for Tiphaine and Rosemary throughout the summer months, the porch concert series supports local performing artists during the pandemic. At each concert, a donation bucket is circulated, with all proceeds going directly to the artists.
Tiphaine and Rosemary also post performers’ emails on a poster board so audience members can e-transfer donations to them after the concert.
“The performers seem really grateful and happy to have a place to perform,” says Tiphaine. “It’s nice because they pull in everything that comes their way in donations, since we’re not an actual venue taking a cut.”
Since indoor performance venues have been closed for most of the past 16 months of the pandemic, those in the performing arts industry have been especially hard hit. Tiphaine and Rosemary feel passionate about ensuring artists are sustained throughout this challenging time.
Tiphaine, a teacher, has a passion for the arts due to her background in visual arts and painting.
“I was involved in a lot of community art and music events in Toronto in my 20s,” Tiphaine explains. “I would volunteer at music festivals and have my own art shows for painting. Lately, I’ve been doing murals with Love for the Boro with the DBIA.”
Although she is not an artist herself, Rosemary also has a passion for art. As a social worker, she thinks art is vital for mental well-being, especially during the pandemic.
“Even though I work in a different career path, I want art around me,” Rosemary says. “I think art makes a community beautiful, and I want to support the people who create that for me. The performances, art, and festivals make a community vibrant, and we need that in Peterborough. Arts and artists need our support.”
“As we’re recovering from this time, I just want to share how important the arts are for people’s mental health,” Rosemary adds. “Many folks have been isolated, and it’s been an anxious time — I just want to share how important I think the arts are to recovery.”
The two housemates are excited to launch their second season of porch concerts this summer. The concerts are organized by Tiphaine and emceed by Rosemary and run every second Friday this summer.
Tiphaine and Rosemary held their first summer concerts on July 9 and 23 and have three more scheduled for the Fridays of August 6, August 20, and September 3. Each show will start at 7 p.m. and run until about 10:30 p.m.
Step three of Ontario’s reopening plan means outdoor gathering limits have increased far beyond the capacity of their yard. Nevertheless, Tiphaine and Rosemary hope to keep audience sizes relatively small and always physically distanced.
This summer’s porch concert series is also exciting for Tiphaine and Rosemary’s Bonaccord street neighbours, who loved the series last year and have been inquiring about its return ever since.
“The neighbourhood seems really supportive,” Tiphaine remarks. “A lot of neighbours have been asking when we’re doing it again, saying it really brought them a lot of joy last year.”
Both Tiphaine and Rosemary’s favourite part of the concert series is how it brings people together.
Tiphaine says she loves it when performers call for audience participation. At one concert featuring Indigenous drummer Janet McCue, children were called on stage to act out animals during the performance.
“It’s been a really wonderful touchstone to connection and community during the pandemic,” Rosemary says. “We have fewer opportunities to connect to people — especially to people who aren’t our immediate friends and family and aren’t the immediate bubble we might be in. Connecting to the wider community has been really important to my mental health.”
The housemates also love how the concerts provide a safe place for amateur performers to share their talents for the first time.
As well as professional musicians (such as 14-year-old fiddling sensation Amelia Shadgett, known by her stage name Irish Millie, who recently released her first record), the series has featured retirees who’ve never performed outside of their own homes, and children performing in public for the first time.
“Porch concerts are open to everyone,” Rosemary notes. “You can come up and sing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ or you could be the most accomplished musician who has travelled around the world.”
VIDEO: Irish Millie performs “Trundles” at Bonaccord Street
Tiphaine is inviting anyone who has something to share to come out and try it at a ‘Waiting for the next porch’ concert.
“We want to encourage people to keep creating because we need them,” she says. “We are encouraging anyone, even if they don’t think they’re ready — because maybe they are.”
If you are interested in performing at a ‘Waiting for the next porch” concert, Tiphaine and Rosemary ask you to follow and message them on Instagram @ptbonaccord, where you’ll also find information about attending a concert.
If you plan to attend one of the upcoming porch concerts, Rosemary and Tiphaine ask that you bring your own chair — and make sure to use your own bathroom before you come since none are available during the concert. You can find free parking on Bonaccord Street.