Music to stories — online entertainment in Wilton

WILTON — Yo Yo Ma is doing it. So is Paul Simon. And now Mac Johnston, Ray Bryant and even Wilton police officers are doing it, too.

They are posting videos on Facebook, YouTube and other platforms to entertain Wiltonians — and the rest of the world — passing the time at home.

Johnston said he performed Meditations by the French composer Jules Massenet at the suggestion of his wife, Lisa Roman. “We set up the phone and did the video just for fun,” he said.

Johnston, who is a professional musician and teacher at Wooster School in Danbury, said he was inspired by artists around the world who were doing similar things.

“Very early on when the crisis started significantly impacting Europe, almost immediately the Berlin Philharmonic — the best orchestra in the world — they have a subscription model for their performances but they opened it up completely for free,” Johnston said.

“When I saw that, I thought, that’s a beautiful thing. I hope it becomes a trend,” he added, noting the Metropolitan Opera and a number of Broadway plays have also made their work available.

Johnston made clear he did not do this as a means of self-promotion. “It’s a sharing thing,” he said. “We want to put our best foot forward.”

He is hoping he can convince his friend Ralph Kirmser, who plays the oboe with the Madera Winds quintet, to join him for a duet.

As a teacher, Johnston is busy creating educational content for his distant learners “and thinking of ideas to play music and share.”

“It’s an organic thing,” he said of the sharing among artists that is taking place. “It’s only a matter of time before it takes on a life of its own. There could be a protracted period of time for performers to share. So far it’s really neat because I’m seeing that part of the giving aspect, rather than self-promotion. They are putting themselves in front of a camera and doing what they do.”

Viewers can catch Ray Bryant — of Jay and Ray — on his YouTube channel at 11 a.m. giving family-friendly mini-concerts. Jay and Ray have quite a following among the younger set and are frequent performers at Wilton Library and other libraries in the area. He is also executive director of Connecticut Friends of the Performing Arts.

“My job is to perform for people,” he said. “I know that kids go bonkers when they are stuck at home for any length of time. I’m always trying to make people smile and laugh and I’m trying to do that online and give it to people.”

A recent Music with Ray concert featured a number of train songs, which he invited viewers to join in on. Another began with a “Hello” song that segued into a song about snow and then into sing-along about farm animals with movements for kids to join in.

“That’s what I’ve got going on, trying to make lemons into lemonade and limes into daiquiris,” he said with a laugh.

Reading with a police officer

The Wilton Police Department now has a library of children’s books — an acquisition that might not have happened at another time.

Officers with young children are bringing in their — or their children’s — favorite story books, reading them out loud and then posting them on the department’s Facebook page.

Coming up with the idea was Capt. Rob Cipolla, who led off the effort by reading “What Do You Do with a Problem? He’s been followed by Officer Rob Smaldone, Sgt. Steven Rangel, Lt. Dave Hartman and School Resource Officer Richard Ross.

“I’ve seen other departments doing this and I wanted to try and bring it to Wilton,” Cipolla said. The plan is for an officer to read a book each weekday from a different part of the police station.

“The plan, in reading a children’s story, is to put a face to the officers reading,” Cipolla said. “We like to give tours of our building to kids, scouts and others, and obviously we can’t do that now, but we can read in different parts of the building.”

The biggest challenge, he said, is “in the midst of everything else, trying to find the time.”

“We’re all moving so fast-paced,” he said, one-on-one “interaction has bee stripped away from us.” This situation, he said, “provides us opportunities to have close time with your family.”

Staying fit

Mary Beth Young, owner of The Pilates Advantage in Wilton, has launched a series of five YouTube classes that may be accessed by studio members as well as the general community.

“We are operating on the honor system with these offerings,” she said in an email. “We suggest either a donation directly to Mary Beth Young through Venmo @MaryBeth-Young for each class or if you are a current client at The Pilates Advantage use The Pilates Advantage App. Please go online and register for the appropriate class to pay for the class each week. Then you can view the class and take it at home at your leisure.”

Classes are Essential Mat Class, Intermediate Mat Class, Cardio/Sculpt/Stretch Class, Barre/Sculpt Class, Piloga Class:

Visit the Pilates Advantage website at to view links to the classes.