Amidst the fear, uncertainty and social distancing of the coronavirus pandemic, communities everywhere are finding ways to stay humane and connected.
The Internet — which has over the past few years been recognized more for its powers of fomenting social division and political partisanship — is also proving a powerful tool for sharing the uplifting experiences that live performances can bring.
Much of these shared experiences, of live music, performance and culture, are possible thanks to streaming audio and video.
But all this digital media is just the “last mile” for connections, and making music, that start in person.
“While Siena Sleeps”
In Italy, where the whole country is on lockdown as more than 10,000 active cases of Covid-19 overwhelm hospitals, one city street in Siena, Tuscany, rang out with voices, as locals leaned out their windows to sing together.
People of my hometown #Siena sing a popular song from their houses along an empty street to warm their hearts during the Italian #Covid_19 #lockdown.#coronavirusitalia #COVID19 #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/7EKKMIdXov— valemercurii 🌍 (@valemercurii) March 12, 2020
The song, “Canto della Verbena” (“And While Siena Sleeps”), is a regional folk song and an expression of local pride and solidarity. A video of the unique community choir’s fervent rendering is turning up in news outlets and social media around the world.
A video from Florence, depicts a pair of musicians play instruments for the neighborhood from their balcony.
Elsewhere in the city, a tenor sings an aria from his balcony.
Across the country, Italians are reaching across quarantined spaces by singing and performing for each other where they live.
World of music
Around the world, the Internet is bursting with live music, from DJs throwing down live sets from their bedrooms, to entire artistic companies staging performances in empty concert halls for thousands of online viewers.
It’s happening not just in Italy, but also China, Dubai, the United States — and anywhere people make music.
There’s even talk of moving live theater performances online.
In London, one of the biggest theater producers in the city’s famed West End is in discussions to take its major shows to the Internet, including “Mamma Mia,” “Les Miserables” and “Hamilton.”
Where to watch
Regional orchestras are out front with live performances and free streaming programs, but there’s no shortage of great archival material as well.
• The Seattle Symphony will be performing Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 this Friday and Saturday nights.
• The Philadelphia Orchestra delivered sparkling renderings of Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth symphonies on March 12 — the video is online, and looks and sounds great.
• For those who prefer a more electric and eclectic sound, take in these 13 “killer rock sets” that were first broadcast for free on public-access TV. There are some remarkable sets in here by legends such as Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, the Misfits, the Minutemen, Ween and more.
• The San Francisco Chronicle has rounded up a great list of live and archival music feeds for every taste, including NPR Live, Pitchfork TV, plus live streams from Youtube, Facebook and Vimeo.
• If you’re looking for music-documentary advice, here are some suggestions from the Tampa Bay Times. These are mostly top-selling acts, such as Taylor Swift, Rush and Beyonce.
• Beyond music, get some laughs from this giant list of comedies available on popular streaming services.
• If you’re a museum and gallery fan, you’ll want to browse this roundup of museums and galleries offering virtual tours.
Make no mistake — Covid-19 brings, at the very least, great uncertainty into our lives.
So, amidst all the attention-seeking hot takes, take the time to read the advice of actual experts, including the World Health Organization’s basic preventative measures, and the Centers for Disease Control’s advisements on keeping your home as safe as possible.
And amidst it all — stay connected through music, art, and all the things that make us human, and keep us humane, in such uncertain times.