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Spontaneous balcony concerts in Italy inspire local physically distanced celebrations

Last Updated Jun 27, 2020 at 8:29 am PDT

Brunella Gaudio, the executive director of the Italian Day Festival Society. (Marcella Bernardo, NEWS 1130 Photo)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Instead of one day in June, how about a series of pop-up concerts in July and August?

That’s how organizers of Vancouver’s annual Italian Day on Commercial Drive have re-purposed festivities during the pandemic.

The summer concert series is drawing inspiration from people in Italy performing from rooftops and balconies during the early days of the crisis.

Brunella Gaudio, the executive director of the Italian Day Festival Society, says the re-imagined campaign joins forces with Coast Mental Health to spread courage rather than fear and she expects that partnership to continue beyond COVID-19.

“I guess maybe it’s the way we’ve been brought up? It’s giving back, it’s about being generous, it’s about love, it’s about family, it’s about community. This was a great opportunity to demonstrate that, so I don’t think we’ll ever stop doing that,” Gaudio says.

As for how the two groups came together, Gaudio says she’s been watching all the COVID-19-related news, talking about all the sacrifices front-line workers have made and she has loved ones struggling with mental health challenges.

“I could see how it was bringing them into a vortex and I thought, we really need to bring this conversation to the forefront because we’re not talking about what it’s doing to people that are suffering, so that’s when Coast Mental Health came up and it just so happened that the campaign that they were running was called Spread Courage Not Fear.”

She adds last year’s campaign to help at risk teens raised ten thousand dollars and that group is also part of this year’s Courage on the Drive to promote wellness during a highly stressful time.

“The idea is to bring partners, businesses, neighbourhoods together in lifting each other up and somehow or another creating a domino effect where we help one another. Coast Mental Health. We were wanting to spread courage. They had a campaign spread courage not fear, so it was just meant to be.”

Gaudio tells NEWS 1130 locations for every rooftop concert or roaming caravan won’t be disclosed, so crowd control is not expected to be an issue.

“Just to maintain social distancing, but what we’ll be doing with the Commercial Drive Business Improvement Association is, this whole initiative –beyond being inspired by Italy and also to be in alliance with Coast Mental Health– it was also intended to create a trickle effect, socially, economically and creatively.”

She says that means many out-of-work artists will be compensated and so will crews setting everything up or event planners.

“A lot of people right now are suffering financially –including organizations, right? So, we’re here to all help one another that way.”

Calling this Courage on The Drive, Gaudio says several rooftop concerts and roaming caravans of music have been scheduled.

“We will give a date. We won’t give a location and we’ll be coming to a neighbourhood near you. Maybe it’s Commercial Drive. Maybe it’s Burnaby. Maybe it’s somewhere downtown, but the whole idea is that we’ll be delivering these magical concerts throughout July and August.”

All the events will be streamed online by the Italian Day Festival Society which will be also be drawing attention to how you can financially support Coast Mental Health programs.