Hothouse Musicians: Miniature Heated Greenhouses Enable Distanced Gatherings

In an era of social distancing, safely performing music with other people can be challenging — but one group has figured out a way to make it work using a set of four-by-four-foot greenhouses. Author Mary Robinette Kowal originally procured these miniature buildings to enable summertime backyard gatherings for her father and his musician friends. Then, as winter approached, heaters were added.

These pods can be arrayed such that their entrances all face in different directions. As pandemic hacks go, this one is also relatively inexpensive, with greenhouses costing around $70 each. Overall, such a separated strategy also seems like a safer approach compared to many semi-enclosed street dining configurations, while still allowing occupants to get close, sit, and make eye contact while playing music.

Kowal also has advice for others who want to try out similar solutions: “you have to go out about 2 hours before the musicians arrive to wipe the condensation off the inside of the greenhouse.” Then, she writes, you should “run a heater to help it stay dry.” She also notes that acoustically, the tighter four-unit configuration is more effective than the spread-out pentagram shape formed with five structures. And, of course, there’s no reason the same strategy couldn’t be used to allow non-musical people to gather as well simply to enjoy some company.

Meanwhile, the musicians and instruments featured in her videos include: Fran Morley on bodhrán and Tom Morley on fiddle (as well as Kowal’s father), Mark Pitner on bouzouki, and Ken Doyle on Irish flute. The group includes players from the bands Pay the Reckoning and Stringer’s Ridge — and their music is frankly quite wonderful, too.

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