In a pandemic world, music helps.

“I listen to music a lot, and that is so calming,” says Kerry Jackson, a cellist who moved to Boothbay Harbor a little more than a year and a half ago. “Playing music too; it’s so uplifting. I haven’t felt a negativity during COVID.”

Kerry first picked up a violin at age 8, switching to cello 3 years later. She spent her early years playing as part of youth symphonies and for school musicals, and as an adult she most enjoys playing in smaller groups.

“I really love playing in quartets. It’s like having a relationship, you have to listen so carefully—you have to move together. You really get to know each other.”

When she first moved to the area, she did not know anyone, but that quickly changed. In the natural course of settling in, she got to know people. Soon enough, Kerry was practicing once a week with four different fellow musicians and playing cello with the Seacoast Youth & Community Orchestra.

That all came to a sudden halt in March when COVID-19 shutdown the country.

Undeterred, Kerry quickly found a new path for making and sharing music.

“I started playing out on my deck in the evening,” she says. “I’d seen a sign outside the Opera House saying ‘play music outdoors,’ so I did. That kept my music going.”

In addition to giving her neighbors something to appreciate, her deck playing also gave her ideas for the future.

“I have a nice yard and nice deck,” she says. “ I could have three people playing on the deck and people listening down below. I would not have thought of that if it were not for the pandemic.”

Rather than being restrictive, the pandemic has generated new possibilities for Kerry.

“There’s a man who lives across the street and I know one song that he sings. I play on my cello from my deck to try to draw him out to get him to sing. I really want participation. I don’t want to perform, I want people to participate.”

“You feel as one when playing music,” she adds.

Such was the experience Kerry offered dozens one late summer eve on Boothbay Common, as she played Ashokan Farewell as part of 132 Candles, an International Overdose Awareness Day event held August 31.

“The tune is best known from Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary, but I think it fit for that occasion.”

She was right.

Kerry, cello in hand: a sole musician flanked by tables covered with 132 votive candles (symbolic of the number of Mainers who lost their lives to overdose in the second quarter of 2020), Ashokan Farewell’s familiar refrain in ongoing lilt, community members lighting candles as day faded: serenity like a warm blanket on cold toes.

Music—and balm.

Prior to moving to Boothbay Harbor, Kerry lived in West Virginia, where she performed with the Springs Chamber Ensemble. Sample recordings from that time in Kerry’s career can be found here.