Lights up on the video, a typical “The Brady Bunch” Zoom call. In the left-hand corner, a dad type with holiday decor behind him; in the bottom square, a mom and her slouching teenage son; to the side, another mom with her daughter; in the middle, Bubbe and Zayde with their Hanukkah menorah. They all wave to each other, smiling. At the top: a woman with a ukulele.

“OK, so our first song today is one of my all-time favorite Hanukkah songs, so you’ll probably recognize it,” the singer says, before launching into a spirited rendition of “Mi Yimaliel.”

This was last Sunday night for a group of family and friends in Savannah, Georgia, as the singer, Rachel Policar, took them on a Hanukkah medley tour from the breathless spinning of “S’vivon, Sov Sov Sov,” to the Ladino tune “Ocho Kandelikas,” to the finale of an operatic, made-for-the-stage version of “Maoz Tzur.” (Her ukulele’s name is Phil, by the way.)

Along the way, the teenage son sat up in attention, and two more sons joined in from different rooms, or maybe from across the country, at college. Everyone was smiling, paying close attention and clapping enthusiastically during the breaks.

“This was amazing!” said one mom, when the show was over. “Thank you SO much!” said another. “I’m going to tell my friend about you; her son is in the army in Israel and they’re doing a Zoom call for his birthday,” said Bubbe.

This was exactly how I hoped that evening would go—though not at all what I could have pictured when I started this project back in May.

Back then, we were just coming out of the first wave of the pandemic, and I hadn’t seen my mom, who lives in New York, since February. (I live in Cambridge.) It was Mother’s Day, and I wanted to get her something to lift her spirits—something we could do together, even while apart.

I also have a lot of friends in the arts, and I knew that most musicians, actors, comedians, you name it, had far less work than usual. It seemed a shame; they were stuck at home, their talents cooped up in their tiny apartments. The rest of us were out here, bored, stressed and isolated. I wished I could send my mom a singer to serenade her outside her window.

As with most things, it turns out that Zoom is the next best thing. I quickly reached out to my network and found a small group of musicians who were interested in participating, sent the idea to friends and arranged six short performances for Mother’s Day, and a few more for Father’s Day. People asked for a range of music, from ’60s folk songs to Irish jigs played on the fiddle.

I decided to call the project “Musegram.” That’s “Muse” + “gram” (but you pronounce the middle “eh”: Muse-zeh-gram!). Each Musegram was about 15 minutes, more like a short, sweet surprise than a full-on concert. I imagined that it could evolve past Mother’s Day as a way to give a gift at any time, celebrate a holiday, spice up a friend or family online gathering or bring joy to someone who was ill or isolated.

Laura Conrad Mandel, executive director of Jewish Arts Collaborative, told me recently that she’s seeing growing interest in people wanting to experience online entertainment together with loved ones, especially Jewish programming.

“People are tuning into JArts programs with friends and family to celebrate birthdays and holidays as an experience together,” she said. “In person, people might have gifted friends tickets to our Beyond Bubbie’s Kitchen program. Now they’re gathering online, and we’re hearing how meaningful it is!”

For Musegram, all of the musicians are working artists or talented amateurs who not only love to perform, but do so in a way that is up close and personal. From the very beginning, the “Muses” told me they got as much out of the performance as the audience.

One of those performers, Trevor Martin, said that doing a Musegram gave him a new sense of purpose in being an artist. In the spring, he was beginning to feel “not essential,” sitting at home without opportunities to perform. Playing “Dear Theodosia” for a new father on Father’s Day reminded him of how much we need music and art to connect.

Trevor and I reconnected in November and decided to try to revive the project for the holiday season. It all happened very quickly, and it’s still just the two of us testing it out. We take a very small fee to support the project, but 85% of every Musegram goes to the artist.

And because it all happened so quickly, and on a shoestring, I admit that this blog is coming to you a little bit late for Hanukkah proper. But we Jews are a celebratory, family-oriented, bend-the-rules kind of people. We hope to continue the project throughout December and into the next year. Would it hurt you to call your Bubbe, even after Hanukkah, and send her a little song every once in awhile?

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