During these times of social distancing, we all have to get creative when it comes to family bonding. For nine-year-old James Gallagher from Dublin, Ireland, that means having digital duets with his grandfather.
James’ mom, Caroline Gallagher, shared a video of her son and father putting on a two-man performance of Queen’s “I Want to Break Free.” In the video, you can see James’ grandfather, Paul Browne, in a small video on the screen playing the piano while James accompanies him on acoustic guitar.
“James is a big fan of Queen,” his mom explained to TODAY. Gallagher expressed that they’re still getting used to their new norm, but they’re all adapting to all of the digital technologies to make social distancing easier.
The nine-year-old has been playing guitar for about a year, taking lessons every Wednesday. This week was his first digital lesson with his teacher, taking the session to FaceTime to continue his weekly practicing.
“James had his first call with on Wednesday, so they did it over FaceTime and it worked really well,” Caroline said. “It’s really great how everyone is adapting to the new norm.”
The lesson this week was none other than the classic Queen hit, which inspired James to share that duet with his grandfather.
“My teacher gave had just taught me how to play ‘I Want to Break Free’ and I sent it to my grandfather and he sent a video back of him playing it on the piano,” he explained. “So then I put his video up on my TV and I played along with it.”
Guitar is the third instrument the nine-year-old learned how to play. James started getting into music after he saw his older sister, 11-year-old Sophie Gallagher, play the piano.
“I started with my sister playing piano and I thought it looked really cool so I got into piano,” he said. “And then in my school, I started playing violin and got into the orchestra. Then my mom asked me if I wanted to play guitar and I took a go at it and really liked it.”
He says that he and his sister play duets often at home as one big musical family. With being home from school, James is able to have more time to practice playing his instruments, including his guitar lessons.
“We’re going on walks a lot, enjoying the fresh air, and since I have time off from school, staying in the house a lot, I get more time to practice my music,” he explained. It’s good that I can contact my grandparents because it’s good for younger people to protect the elderly.”
James and his grandfather FaceTime regularly so that they are able to talk while they can’t see each other in person. Even with social distancing set in place, James says that he’ll be playing more duets with his grandfather in the future from the comfort of their own home as a way to bond and spend time together, even when they're apart.
“I think that music is just a great way for people to connect and family to connect,” his mom said. “I think something like Queen is something that my father would have loved and James loves, so there’s a commonality there between different generations. It’s lovely that they can share that and especially in finding new ways to connect virtually in this time of COVID-19.”