“Music connects people and makes them feel good” with this in mind, local singer song writer D’Artagnan, has taken himself and his guitar out on to the streets of Teddington to entertain. Fiona Kingston reports.
It is 4pm on a Sunday afternoon and all eyes focus on one corner of a street in Teddington. Windows swing open, doors open and walls become ring side seats. D’Artagnan’s first song wins a warm response.
As more songs are sung listeners’ lockdown blues start to lift. Toes tap, people clap, children laugh and the temptation to dance is strong. The street, that for so many weeks, except for Thursday evenings, has been strikingly silent, is now vibrant. Glasses are raised and so are peoples’ spirits.
His gift to the community is welcomed. “What a great idea! An evening out on the road, what a treat” says one neighbour and another “the highlight of the last few weeks”.
The sun shines, and the air is fresher in the absence of relentless flights. Chairs, tables and toys are positioned to meet social distancing rules. On both sides of Cambridge Crescent, residents are drawn to the music, a bit like sunflowers turning toward the sun. This particular street gig, organised a few weeks ago by a neighbour, professional photographer Trevor Aston, came at just the right time for both the musician and the listeners.
Due to the Covid-19 crisis, all of D’Artagnan’s 2020 bookings have been postponed until after the lockdown. The charismatic musician is missing playing to a live audience. He reflected: “I was so excited at the beginning of the year as I had recently released my debut album `Crush Hour’ and my diary was full.”
As he sings Black Eyed Peas `I got a feeling’, people relax. Thoughts of difficult home schooling, abandoned holidays, and distant family fade.
When asked about his decision to sing for the community. He explained. “It began over the sunny Easter weekend when I thought it would be nice to play for neighbours in Watts Lane. Everyone said how much they had enjoyed it. Following that, nearby streets heard about it and asked if I would play for them.”
He added: “It struck me that it is an uplifting experience to bring a street closer together in these strange times, particularly if people are in lockdown alone and therefore feeling isolated and bored. One of my neighbours hadn’t been outside her front door in three weeks.”
Describing the atmosphere on streets he’s visited – Wades Lane, Avenue Gardens, Munster Road, Clarence Road and Vicarage Road, to name but a few – he said: “Each time has been a wonderful community event.”
His gift of music, is described by neighbours as `fantastic’ and `uplifting’. And is one of many acts of kindness experienced in the neighbourhood in recent weeks.
Addressing the question of music’s importance he said: “It’s my life. It’s what I do. It feeds my soul.” He first started playing his guitar aged 9, and singing after he met Stevie Wonder at a party hosted by the Wonderlove Band.
Supported by producer William South, D’Artagnan’s second album is underway and will be recorded after the lockdown.
His repertoire of covers/songs is both extensive and eclectic. “I never play the same gig twice. I just read the audience and go from there.” Popular choices: “Brown eyed girl, No Woman No Cry, Shotgun, Where do you go my lovely and Get lucky”
For Caroline Vaudrey, his new neighbour, `Stand by me’ proved particularly special.
She explained why. “Jamie and I got married on Saturday 11th April, the same date and time we’d originally planned but in a completely different way, on Zoom! After the ceremony, led by a retired vicar friend with witnesses, we stepped into the garden with our glasses of bubbly and heard `Stand by me’ drifting over the rooftops and distant applause. What amazing timing! That was our introduction to D’Artagnan. The following day he held a concert in our road and surprised us with a special mention! We felt really blessed- it was a wonderful start to our married life, and we thank him for that.”
Although his community singing was never intended to generate an income, people of all ages have
stepped forward and put money in his guitar case. An endorsement of a job well done and the positive impact of music in a crisis.