Singing through the pandemic; new online group features local artists

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Pete Pakalnis and his daughter Karina, 17, of Wyoming are some of the musicians featured in the Facebook group The Quarantine Sessions.

In a world practicing isolation, thousands of Lambton residents are coming together through the gift of music.
So says Pete Pakalnis of Wyoming who is finding that a new online Facebook group called The Quarantine Sessions is a great creative outlet to share with his 17 year-old daughter.
The Quarantine Sessions was started by Kevin Churchill, a Lambton County employee and guitar player who says membership is growing by nearly 1,000 a day. In just two weeks, it’s attracted more than 13,000 members.
“I am overwhelmed by the numbers involved in this,” says Pakalnis.
He and his daughter Karina, who is in her final year at LCCVI, have performed together in the past at the Legion and for fundraisers.  So when they began to go “a little stir crazy” in isolation, they pulled out their guitars and recorded some classic rock from Guns N’ Roses, Led Zeppelin and Tom Petty. 
The response to their Quarantine Sessions posts has stunned the father/daughter duo.
“We had hundreds of likes and comments,” says Pakalnis.  “In all honesty, the support we are getting is giving us a really good feeling.
“It’s some positivity in these times when we all could use it.”
Churchill is impressed by the variety of people posting.  He estimates about 80 per cent are from the local area while the rest are discovering Quarantine Sessions in every province in Canada and as far away as the UK and Europe. 
“It’s crazy. We’re hearing from people who, in my opinion, should have a record deal, they’re that good,” Churchill says. “We’re also hearing from musicians just starting out and finding an audience for the first time.”
Demi Krall is a singer/songwriter from Petrolia who plays regularly in bars throughout Lambton County.  
She’s isolated on her own during the pandemic and says sharing her music on Quarantine Sessions keeps her connected.
“A lot of my gigs have been cancelled and this is a cool way to still show our art,” Krall says.  “It’s cool to know someone’s watching.
 “If there’s one thing everyone has in common, it’s music and this really is bringing everyone closer together,” she says.
Churchill said The Quarantine Sessions started out as a single recording that he posted online. His brother-in-law James Miller is also a musician and did the same.
“James suggested I start an online group and I thought maybe since everyone’s gigs have dried up, a few buddies would like to post, then that would be it.”
By now, hundreds of solo acts, family combos and bands have posted everything from their favourite covers to coronavirus-inspired originals.
“I saw (longtime Sarnia artist) Jim Chevalier post a live stream and later comment on a young person’s song after they mustered up the courage to try to find their voice,” says Churchill. “Jim offered such encouragement. That positive feedback is so valuable,” he says. “I feel that we’re really filling a void.”
Churchill’s Facebook group is The Quarantine Sessions – Connecting Through Music.