Remi Chiu

How music helps people fight disease (Part 1)

People sing from the balcony amid blockade days because Covid-19 is part of a long tradition of using music against fear.

Stalking disease Nestled behind locked doors, no one could hear the footsteps of Milan’s cobbled streets. Strict quarantine orders are in effect and all commercial and community activities disappear. Around Il Duomo – the splendid cathedral of the city – not a shadow of people.

Fearing epidemics, all religious gatherings are prohibited. But by faith – and especially music – nothing can stop people. After the call to “pray in the mind”, they launched an epidemic challenge with music. Open windows, open doors and on balconies, thousands of men, women, children began to sing.

Ca sĩ opera Pháp - Stephane Senechal - trình diễn ca khúc O sole mio từ cửa sổ nhà anh ở Paris. Ảnh: AFP.

No, this is not Milan when being blockaded because of Covid-19. It was the summer of 1576, when the plague devastated much of northern Italy.

“It was a sight to watch” – one commentator notes – “when all the inhabitants of this crowded city, about 300,000 souls were hoping”. It is a scene that makes Milan look like “the heavenly Jerusalem”.

The resemblance to the current pandemic is striking. People in Italy, Spain and around the world have used music to connect their communities on an impressive scale: videos of concerts on the balcony – where artists perform for people in the same area isolation – strong spread. They cover Nessun Dorma, Valerie, Imagine, and the song that penetrates the soul of Someone You Loved by Lewis Capaldi.

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During the plague, a Milan trumpeter blew a moving version of O Mia Bela Madunina, the city’s hymn, to the statue of Our Lady at the top of the Il Doumo church. The recent campaign of applause for anti-Covid-19 doctors in the UK is another example. In the meantime, it doesn’t matter if you’re an artist: pots, pans, hands and screams are enough.