Residents sheltering in place through the coronavirus pandemic will be invited to unite in a “Brookhaven Strong” flag-raising and virtual sing-along of the national anthem led by a local opera singer.

City Councilmember Linley Jones is organizing the event, which is scheduled for April 2, 6 p.m. She said she was inspired by the older generation that is among those most at risk for the COVID-19 disease, and by stories of people in isolation in Italy joining in groups singing from apartment balconies.

“Obviously, [the] mayor and council are hard at work on substantive measures to protect the community and have led the state in that regard,” said Jones, who recently joined in a unanimous vote to impose a shelter-in-place order and curfew on the city. “Meanwhile, however, it is important to keep the community spirit strong to endure the challenges we face.”

Brookhaven City Councilmember Linley Jones. (Special)

The singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” streamed on the city’s Facebook page, will be led by Kelsey Fredriksen, a Chamblee singer who performs in the Atlanta Opera chorus, among other venues.

“It’s just a way, from what I understand, to try to connect everybody in this time when we’re all separated and thrown into virtual reality,” said Fredriksen. “So ‘Brookhaven Strong’ is an idea to give a sense of community back.”
Jones described the concept for the event.

“Citizens will be asked to participate by raising a flag, tuning into the city of Brookhaven’s Facebook Live page, and coming out onto their porches, yards or balconies to join a local opera singer in singing the national anthem,” she said. “Playing it from speakers is encouraged and the city will do so as well.” The continued singing of other patriotic songs is encouraged as well.

“I was inspired to design a unifying event by the desire to send a message of support to our aging citizens, our greatest generation, who are under a particular threat with coronavirus,” said Jones. “Raising the flag is an important traditional way to show unity as a community, as Americans, and as citizens of the world.

“From there, I was inspired by our Italian brothers and sisters who come together in voice but not physical distance. Combining those concepts led to the idea of ‘Brookhaven Strong.’”

Jones has connections to the local music community. Her husband, Greg Roth, leads a PBS show called “Mr. Greg’s Musical Madness,” teaching music and movement to young children.

Kelsey Fredriksen, a singer and teacher of voice and piano. (Special)

Fredriksen also works as a voice and piano tutor in the area. She has worked with Roth on the TV show and teaches Jones and Roth’s son Elijah.

Besides the Atlanta Opera work and teaching, Fredriksen is a staff singer and soloist at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church in Emory Village and performs in classical, opera and jazz events around the city. Many of those gigs and performances are canceled are postponed in a devastating period for the arts economy.

“It’s kind of a confusing time to be in when you’re in the arts,” said Fredriksen. What remains is now virtual. She’s teaching students online, and her church is organizing a “virtual choir,” where members are recording their parts. The fate of Atlanta Opera’s May performance of “Madama Butterfly” is unclear and could become a virtually streamed event, too, she said.

Many musicians, from stars to local talents, are performing online for free during the pandemic. Fredriksen said she may work on a project with her husband, Mauro Ronca, who is a pianist with the opera and in a jazz trio and is the organist at Buckhead’s Northwest Prebysterian Church. He will perform in a livestreamed church concert benefiting those in the U.S. and Italy affected by the pandemic, she said.

“I think there is a sense of, even during the darker times, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and the need for community and being part of something bigger,” said Fredriksen. “And definitely in the arts world, the sense that artists need to make art, right?

Update: This story has been updated with the scheduled date of the event. It also corrects an incorrect time for the event that was initially given by the city.

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.