New York and San Diego have nothing on Coronado. They may have professional singers giving concerts from balconies or on the street, but so do we. The Sopranos, a duo of Katleen Dugas and Diane Alexander, who have been singing together since Dugas became Alexander’s first voice student, combined their voices for three Pop-Up Concerts on Christmas Eve. Their aim according to Alexander, “We want to bring a little warmth, Christmas spirit, joy to all of you. We want to make Christmas Eve a bit brighter.” They did that for over 200 people who gathered to enjoy the outdoor cheer.
Starting at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve, the first pop-up concert of Christmas music on Triangle Park at Palm and I Avenue drew around fifty spirited residents, some just happening by on their daily walks, some received texted advanced invitations. The Sopranos welcomed the audience and began belting out familiar carols and secular favorites, inviting all of us to join in the fun. Some attendees wore masks and sang a muffled rendition while others joyfully joined the duet, maskless. With recorded accompaniment, the duo entertained the gathering with seven songs, ignoring with humor the sudden gust of wind that blew hair and a leaf in the mouths.
From Palm Street, the singers moved to pop-up concert No. 2 at the corner of Alameda and Tenth Street. While the concert was the same, hearing it a second time was just as enjoyable. The crowd gathered and continued to increase as the melodies permeated the quiet surroundings, a multi-generational group complete with dogs on leashes and young children jumping around excitedly. As I walked away, I spotted a young boy standing on a balcony overlooking the concert. When I asked if he enjoyed the concert, he quickly replied, “Very much so.” Everyone enjoyed the performance. The smiles and singing were ample evidence.
The final concert was to be in the corner of Sixth Street and C Avenue at Spreckels Park. However, a larger church group was forming near the gazebo, so The Sopranos simply moved across the street and occupied another spot, literally singing on the street corner. Same song list but the crowd had increased with the same spirited enthusiasm. During Dugas’ “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree,” several people followed instructions and danced to the music. As nearby neighbors heard the music, they filed out and joined the group.
As the third concert proceeded, the lulls between songs allowed a quiet murmur from the candlelight church service in Spreckels Park. Across from the park, on the opposite corner from the pop-up, Catholic mass was ending, and parishioners were lingering as they wished friends a Merry Christmas. Seeing such activity in close proximity, all joining together in the proper spirit of the season, demonstrated the charity and small town friendliness of Coronado.
Alexander, a world renown opera singer and native of Rhode Island, came to Coronado after marrying Jim Scanlon. Her professional career includes performances with the Washington National Opera, the Houston Grand Opera, the San Francisco and New York City Operas, and the San Diego Opera, performing the lead in such famous operas as “La Traviata,” “The Merry Widow,” and “La Boheme.” She still performs professionally but, also, has had her business, Diane Alexander Voice Academy, for the last 10 years in Coronado.
Dugas specializes in jazz, rock, pop, gospel, and classical music, performing locally and in Los Angeles. She recently released “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” on Spotify. Raised by a French father and an American mother, she is bilingual. Disney tapped her to sing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” in French for a Christmas Castle Lighting Ceremony at EuroDisney which was nationally televised.
While the two singers have different singing styles, they have worked together for enjoyment on many projects for the last 15 years.
During this season when the reason for the season remains constant but the loving togetherness is often absent, witnessing the generous sharing of two talented women for three pop-up concerts to spread the joy of Christmas to fellow residents in different pockets of town emphasized the beauty of the Christmas spirit no matter what is happening in our world. We all hope 2021 will return to normal, and next Christmas will allow larger gatherings whenever and wherever we choose. The pop-up concerts with Alexander and Dugas need to become part of that normal we crave. Their mini concerts were a shining spot to fill a looming void in the Christmas cheer.