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Here’s the Story Behind That Viral Video of Kids Playing a Private Cello Concert for Their Self-Quarantining Neighbor

3 minute read

As epidemiologists and leaders worldwide ask people to socially distance themselves to help curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, communities everywhere are finding small ways to support each other remotely.

And one heartwarming viral video shared on Monday shows how two kids in Columbus, Ohio, brought an orchestral concert to their 78-year-old neighbor’s doorstep as she self-quarantined as a precaution. Taran Tien, 9, wore a suit and his sister, Calliope Tien, 6, wore bright pink for their big performance on Helena Schlam’s porch, sitting many feet away from their neighbor.

Taran and Calliope had spent the weekend playing cello via FaceTime for family and friends as an assignment from their cello instructor, in order to keep up with their practice amid COVID-19 social distancing, according to their mother, Rebecca Tien. Tien called her elderly neighbor, Helena Schlam, on Sunday, offering to pick up groceries, but then she had an even better idea: a private cello concert.

The neighbors planned the performance of music from the Suzuki Cello books for Monday at 12 p.m. for a very special reason. Schlam would FaceTime her grandchildren in Israel — who won’t come for their typical springtime visit due to the pandemic — to perform for them, too. “So my children were not only giving a concert for Helena, but also for her grandchildren in Israel,” Tien said.

Tien said that while she and her husband both work remotely and their two kids are home from school, they’re looking for ways to make daily life more fun and exciting. “We’re just trying to rethink what it means to be home in a positive way: that we get to spend time together, that we get to learn things we don’t always have time to do,” she said.

Rebecca Tien

But on a more personal level, Tien said it was important for her to be able to be there for Schlam right now. Tien’s own mother underwent surgery in upstate New York on Tuesday morning, and because of coronavirus fears, she couldn’t be with her. “I didn’t want to put her at risk and I was feeling sad that I couldn’t travel,” she said. “So this felt like a way that I could connect to someone and help in a way that made me feel better about maybe feeling a little helpless that I couldn’t go be with my mom today.”

When another neighbor, Jackie Borchardt, shared a video of the performance on Twitter, Tien said she was “overwhelmed” by the positive responses from people all over the world. The video has more than 500,000 views as of Tuesday afternoon.

“I do think there’s a value in a story that moves people,” said Tien, who works as a freelance photographer. “It was just a private event to make one person happy, but I really do see the value of making lots of people happy. I feel like we need it right now.”

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Write to Rachel E. Greenspan at rachel.greenspan@time.com