Being in the European Music Centre that is Vienna is like always walking at a park serenaded by Mozart and company. Musicians abound and would play as though they are on a stage in front of a large audience – skillfully and with all the emotions, you can’t help but be mesmerized. It has become habitual, yes, but I still always take time to listen, clip a film and give my due – which is actually just a bonus on their part.
So when I’m out of town or country, I’d stop, look, and listen to them buskers as I’ve always had. They can be musicians, dancers, jugglers, clowns, mimes, sketchers and what-have-you on the streets. All about street act in the hope that you’ll give them your attention and be able to entertain as you pass along them. My favorite of them would be musicians, no matter what instrument. And because I walk a lot whichever city I go, it kinda makes my day happier encountering music unexpectedly at street corners or any given plaza!
In Vienna, many hardly notice the soulful voice of the blind man serenading passers-by going to the train station, probably because like the rest of the population, they’re in a rush. Most of the time, tourists are the ones who would always listen. And so it is when I’m out of town; I’d stop, look and listen – just as tourists would. It’s probably because I heard that some popular singers sometimes disguise as buskers.
To name a few, there was Joshua Bell, Paul McCartney, Bon Jovi, Sting, Tom Jones and even Bruce Springsteen when he was young. And actually, some were discovered from street busking such as musicians Rod Stewart, Violent Femmes, and Guy Laliberte, founder of Cirque du Soleil theatrical company. Have you noticed any of them?
Unknown to many, busking is quite a complex endeavor. Depending on the city, performers need permits and must conform to regulations and laws. Most of the time, they are the targets of robbery. Artists as they are, one thing’s for sure though – it’s the love of performing that keeps them going.
So during our trip to Italy, the home of the piano and the violin, I’ve seen how there is no shortage of talented musicians who took to the streets. In Venice for example, finding our way back the serpentine roads and after many detours we chanced upon a water glass (glass harp/verrilion) player. Didn’t really mind stopping to listen, it’s no wonder that though called with many names, this instrument fits the description “angelic organ”. It was a delightful surprise despite getting lost.
While roaming alone in Rome, lost in between thoughts and expectations, I stumbled upon a builder of time machines (slash) rock musician. (His witty sign alone will make you stop!) He was playing his version of Ray Charles’ I Got a Woman, sort of invites you to just pull a partner, dance around not minding the crowd building up around him. I regret not having to! Maybe I should build a time machine myself and go back there to do that? Nah, a trip back to Rome would definitely be more practical, I just hope he hasn’t gone back to the 50’s by then!
Busking even at night
I agreed to a rendezvous with hubby by the pantheon and I lost track of time listening to this lady. I was lost too to the lyrics of her song (the only Italian song I know by heart is Zucchero’s Hai Scelto Me and I still haven’t learned its English counterpart in full) blending so well with her awesome guitar skills. I was so engrossed, I listened to two of her songs before I went on to look for hubby…saw him and a mime clown. But, that’s another story.
Then, there’s this young performer at the Piazza del Duomo in Florence, by the side of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. While many went on to learn what the fuss about the carabinieri in front of the Il Duomo was that particular night, she continued playing her violin, undisturbed in front of a crowd. She did Mozart and Bach. There was a younger girl watching her intently the whole time…I somehow felt like – that was how I might have appeared to others when caught up to beautiful music I chance upon for being the itchyfeet that I am.
There are many more performances I heard and saw while in Italy (I have to look for the videos :/ gott). For all those, I’m really grateful. You know, the one good thing about music that I like is, when it hits you, you feel no pain. Right, I borrowed that quote from someone famous but it’s true. That is why, when you’re out, it wouldn’t hurt to appreciate the performances out in the open. Stop, listen, be engulfed, let it hit you! You will never know, years from now, maybe the next time you hear/see that performer is during his/her concert on the big stage!