Concerts and musical performances are canceled, which can hurt a musician’s career and income. But during this pandemic, musicians have turned to a new performance venue: balconies. A balcony might not be a stage or a performance hall, but it’s definitely sufficient to still bring music to others.
Playing for Whoever Will Listen
The recent movement to perform on a balcony was largely created by Italian-based musicians Matt Walker (a cellist) and Zeneba Bowers (a violinist). The duo spent 20 years performing in the Nashville Symphony Orchestra before moving to Italy at the start of 2020. They couldn’t have imagined that when they moved to the new, beautiful country that they would soon find themselves at the center of a worldwide pandemic.
One day, they decided to step out onto their balcony overlooking the town of Soriano nel Cimino and play music for whoever would listen from the streets — or for their lucky neighbors who were fortunate to attend free concerts. Bowers said, “It occurred to us that we could come out here [on the balcony] and play.” So, they did just that, and they started recording videos of their performances and participating in Facebook Live streams.
Correspondent Seth Doane asked them, “Did you ever imagine you’d be playing on a balcony?” Bowers responded, “No! We had never thought of using this space as any type of concert venue. We wanted to use this space as a grill-and-drinking venue.”
Balconies Are More Popular
It didn’t take long for the town to notice the musicians’ performances. Their neighbors piped the performances into loudspeakers, so more people could hear the uplifting music during this dark period. Bowers commented, “This is one way we could still perform, that we could do something positive for our community, and also not go crazy in quarantine. Helps!”
More musicians have been inspired by Walker and Bowers’ balcony performances and have participated in the movement. During this pandemic, balconies have become more popular and people have grown to appreciate their balconies. Not everyone is fortunate to have a balcony at their apartment or home.
“I think the balcony has really come into its own in this period,” commented art historian Liz Lev. She acknowledged the most significant balconies throughout history, including St. Peter’s Square, Buckingham Palace, and even the Shakespeare heroine Juliet Capulet’s balcony in Verona. Government leaders, like Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, used balconies to exhort power over their country.
“We connect balconies with things like the Pope, but there are also bad leaders who’ve used balconies,” Doane said. Lev added, “Well, it’s the same thing; you get a platform, and sometimes use the platform for good, and sometimes people use the platform for ill.”
Always Making Music
People need to listen to music right now. Artists need to use their voices and creativity to inspire others, and to remind others that they are not alone in this pandemic. Balcony performances might just be the most effective way to spread music and positivity.
Father-and-son team Fabio and Jacopo Mastrangelo have used this isolation period to make music on their balcony in Rome. They rehearse their music and perform every day for anyone who might be able to listen. Fabio commented, “We are spending a lot of time in making rehearsal to prepare every day a different song. So, every day, it’s a premiere.”
Jacopo plays his electric guitar for anyone who might be walking in Rome’s Piazza Navona, but the musician also performs on Facebook Live streams. Over the weeks, it has become a community for musicians, as well as their listeners. “I’m sending a message, a message of hope,” Jacopo commented.
Keep playing music. We’ll be here to listen.
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