The Easter Driveway Concerts that Blessed the Western Suburbs

Apr 17, 2020

This past Sunday, while most everyone was still hunkered down at home, many watching Easter church services online and missing warm family gatherings of years past, more than a dozen residents throughout Elmhurst, Lombard, Hinsdale, and other area suburbs received a rare treat: mini live-music concerts.

Four music ensembles based out of the Oakbrook Terrace Salvation Army Corps Community Center visited senior living complexes, condo buildings, and personal residences to play beloved hymns for about 15-20 minutes in each location. Standing six feet apart from each other in parking lots and on driveways, the Army ensembles entertained members of the Oakbrook Terrace center who are ill, homebound, elderly, or just in need of some Easter cheer.

“It’s hard enough just having to shelter in place,” said Bill Himes, conductor of the Oakbrook Terrace Army band and the one who spearheaded the Easter concerts. “Most of the people we visited can’t even get out to the store.”

The idea originated from one of the Oakbrook Terrace Army band members. When he brought the idea to Bill, he immediately emailed members of the band and got positive enough response to assemble four ensembles of five to six players each. The officers at the Oakbrook Terrace center put together a list of people from their congregation to visit and called ahead to clear the visits.

“We got a nice reaction all around,” Bill said of the outdoor concerts. Though the audiences were small, they were very appreciative. There was applause, some supportive honking, even some neighbors popped their heads out to enjoy the strains of “There Is a Redeemer” and “In Christ Alone.” When Bill noticed a neighbor watching them play from a nearby roof, he called out, “Mind if we make a racket?” The response: “Are you kidding? This is beautiful!”

Afterward, many thank-you notes showed just how much the visits meant. Pedro and Mirca Arias from Broadview wrote, “We are so grateful to you for sending the band members to our house for the Easter celebration day. It was a remarkable and outstanding performance from them. Please extend our gratitude for such a special day. The neighbors were also fascinated, taking video of their performance.”

Mick Shay from Hinsdale wrote, “That was just a wonderful ministry and a real blessing for Chris and I yesterday. Thank you so much for coming by and playing for us. The lyrics came to heart and mind as you all played.”

One concert recipient even received a thank-you note from her neighbor: “Thank you so much for the beautiful Easter concert treat today. It helped make my day as I was missing being with my family. A very blessed Easter to you and many thanks to your Salvation Army church family.”

The players themselves, used to playing triumphant and well-rehearsed songs to a bustling Easter morning congregation, said they were blessed by the experience. Tom Hanton, one of the ensemble leaders, said, “Each of the four locations where our trombone ensemble played, there were many people who came out of their homes to listen to the group! It was great to make music and brighten other people’s day on Easter.”

Bill, a respected musician internationally, said these small performances meant more to him than many more prominent events on well-known stages. “For a Salvation Army band, this is our bread and butter – blessing others.”

He also sees other such concerts in the future, especially as the shelter-in-place orders wear on and the school closures are announced. “We need to do this more often,” he said. “We don’t need Easter to go spread musical cheer.”

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For tax purposes: The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division EIN is 36-2167910.

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