Members of the NY Phil Bandwagon, from left, violinist Fiona Simon, countertenor and producer Anthony Roth Costanzo, violinist Curtis Stewart and viola player Robert Rinehart perform in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York.
Members of the NY Phil Bandwagon, from left, violinist Fiona Simon, countertenor and producer Anthony Roth Costanzo, violinist Curtis Stewart and viola player Robert Rinehart perform in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York.
PIC: Associated Press

With performance halls shut because of the coronavirus pandemic, the best concert venue a violinist could hope for one recent October Friday was a sidewalk in the Bronx.

Fiona Simon tuned her instrument as she prepared for one of her only public performances with the New York Philharmonic in months.

Traffic hummed and sirens wailed as a crew laid cables and unloaded speakers from the back of a double-parked pickup truck.

"You're not a complete musician if you're just playing for yourself," Simon said.

The Philharmonic came up with the idea for a series of outdoor, pop-up performances over the summer, even as it was forced to lay off or furlough nearly half its staff as it faced a multimillion-dollar budget deficit.

On that Friday, Simon and a few colleagues played three corners of the city as part of the series they're calling the NY Phil Bandwagon.

The first show of the day was outside a Bronx school, the second outside a public library in Queens and the final one in a Brooklyn park.

The bandwagon itself - a red Ford pickup truck - rolls up to the curb carrying a sound system, music stands, lights and orange traffic cones to keep the audience socially distant.

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