Let there be songs to fill the web: lifting spirits with music in isolation

FREEPORT, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Let there be songs to fill the air...in the studio and in quarantine.

Through a partnership with Visit South Walton, Chris Alvarado's "Virtual Beach Vibes" helps local musicians and the community.

Freeport’s Chris Alvarado manufactures guitars during the day. At night, he manufactures songs and smiles via web stream.

"All of the bars in the restaurants in the area have closed down, so pretty much all of our income as musicians everywhere in the
world really but especially right here just completely dropped off a cliff," Alvarado said.

Local acts still had songs in their hearts. Soon, they had an idea in the brains.

"It was a week ago today," he recalled. "I have a buddy of mine, Matt Miller, who is a fiddle player and plays with a bunch of different bands.
He called me up and said 'listen, man. The shoe is about to drop. A lot of us are about to lose gigs and you've got this studio at your house.
Would you be interested in bringing in musicians in the area to do a Facebook live broadcast?' I told him 'if we're going to do that, let's try
to step it up.'"

The result is not a run-of-the-mill, cell phone camera stream.

"I wanted to bring what our live production quality is to people at their homes. So I said, 'let's do it with our microphones and
our amplifiers.'"

The 'Virtual Beach Vibes' series started onAlvarado's personal Facebook, then migrated to the Visit South Walton page, where viewers can leave comments and make song requests in real time.

By Friday night, the show traveled nationwide.

"We started having people chime in 'I'm from Illinois! Or, 'I'm up in Wisconsin and it's snowing right now!' It's really
amazing to see that, but it's what we see all the time. People come to us from all over the world to visit our beaches and in turn, we basically get to tour without going anywhere. By doing this
virtual broadcast, it's basically the same thing."

Tucked in a tight studio with his wife Naomi and the $50 SwitcherStudio app, he can’t hear applause, but he feels the love from nearly 5,000 in attendance.

"I've gotten so many messages from people saying, 'this is the first time I've smiled in weeks.' You're like, 'wow,
I was just doing something that I really love to do.'"

Playing at least twice a week helps his friends get by.

"We get paid to play music for a living, but honestly our regular gigs are part of our therapy for ourselves. Us getting to interact with the community and provide a moment of happiness for them is a big reason why we do this."

With a little help from his friends—TK Bardwell and Clint Weninegar are slated to appear next—he’s helping us get by.

"This is my way to be able to reach out and give people a hug at a distance. We are in a really bad moment right now, but we're also in a really good moment because we're all realizing that we're a community and we all have to be here to support one another."

If you get confused, just listen to the music play.

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