Music as a cure, a time for sharing, but also joy and glee, and a strong desire to share talents.
That is the beautiful project created by violinist Aldo Cicchini, born in Montevideo, Uruguay, and currently the 1st violins section of the RAI National Symphony Orchestra in Italy.
Aldo welcomed the call to play music from balconies. Since last March 13, he has been performing on this new stage every day at 6pm. An instant success with his neighbors, his music has now become a highly anticipated daily rendez-vous, and so it will be until next April 3.
Aldo, what got you into this project?
On Thursday, March 12, I came up with the idea to experiment with music online by playing a live concert on Instagram and Facebook from my place.
I looked into it because I was really missing playing for an audience, and I felt like brightening up my family, friends and everyone else’s quarantine with some beautiful music moments.
Since I’m the only musician here at home, I recorded the guitar backing tracks, then played them from my tablet and speaker to play violin over it, for a better, more complete final piece.
All was scheduled for Friday 13 at 7pm. On that same day, around noon, I received the message of a colleague inviting all musicians in Italy to play from their balconies or windows to share some beautiful moments with those near them (the much-talked-about flash mob).
So I decided to join them, and I took it as a chance to play some pieces from my online concert.
I went out on my balcony with absolutely no expectations, shyly at first. As the music kept playing, my neighbors started to come out on their balconies as well in order to listen.
Five minutes into it, they were all out and excited. Once my first piece was over, they started clapping and asking for more music. So I played one more piece, and one more again … They kept asking for more, so given my neighbors’ reaction, it came naturally to me to say, “See you tomorrow at the same time”. In that moment, this whole quarantine made sense.
I played my concert no. 13 today, and their reaction has not changed. Smiles, gratitude, and a lot of applause.
How do you chose what music to play for this new audience?
I always pick catchy, simple pieces that can reach everyone, not just those who are into classical music. Popular classical pieces alternated with tango, Italian folklore songs like “Caruso” or “O mia bèla Madunina”, and beautiful movie soundtracks.
You chose to use your social media to make your music available to a wider audience, particularly Instagram and Facebook, which you are entrusting your violin music to. What do you think of the use of social media in this hard time?
On social media, a project like this can reach beyond my building, so that I can bring good not just to those around me, but also to people connecting from afar to listen to my concerts.
In this hard times, social media are crucial to keep in touch with people, and most of all, to be able to communicate with the world without leaving home.
After my first live, I received many messages from many different countries – Iran, Turkey, China, Russia, Taiwan, Uruguay, Argentina, Norway, Syria, Canada, the United States, and more. Everyone was texting to thank me for the concert, and to share their wishes for Italy and the Italians to overcome this situation soon. Some of them are having similar experiences, and said that music is giving them the strength to hold on.
As a musician, the only thing I can do at a time like this is to donate my art. To donate beautiful moments to people, to take them to a world where there is no pain, no bad news – even if just for a bunch of minutes a day.
Your video went viral in China with over 10 million views. How did that happen?
My next-door neighbors are a Chinese family with two little kids, just like us. They recorded a piece I played on the balcony, and posted in on a Chinese social network called Weibo.
When I woke up the following morning, I started seeing hundreds of messages from Chinese people on Instagram, including one from my neighbour to explain what was happening.
Overnight, the video had gone viral. In 10 hours, 5 million people had already watched it.
The number of messages was impressive, everyone was so sincere and kind in wishing all the best to Italy and the Italians. It was so beautiful to see so much solidarity, support and hope in every message.
Music knows no limits, there are no borders that can hold back notes, or stop a melody.
Is that your message?
Music is my life. I started playing the violin when I was five years old, I traveled and performed in many countries.
Having contact with the audience is perhaps what I enjoy most about my job. Music, like any art, has the power to turn a bay day around, to bring smiles and positive vibes.
With my little contribution, I wish to create carefree time for everyone who’s in quarantine – people who are often alone, scared and sad – so that they can close their eyes for a few moments, and smile as music fills their hearts.
How did your neighbors react?
In Milan, there are many projects to support socialization while keeping the recommended distance to face the pandemic.
I felt the urge to donate music with these little concerts by creating a new daily routine to wait and long for.
My neighbors asked the doorkeeper for our phone number, and have been sending messages to thank us.
I think everyone should help others with what they have, and what they can do. I’m a musician, so I couldn’t but donate the music that I love.