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Featured | Street Performances

The Beauty of Encountering Music Unexpectedly

October 18, 2013


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 just to encounter good music unexpectedly at street corners or any given plaza!

Glass Water, Venice

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.

time machine
Rome, playing 50’s music

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!

Rome, playing and singing Italian

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.

Florence, classics on violin

Then, there’s this young performer at the Piazza del Duomo in Florence, by the side of the Basilica di Santa Maria del FioreWhile 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!


  1. It’s great to hear that these artists are being appreciated there. Here in the Philippines, very few people stop by and listen to songs being played by musicians on the streets begging for alms.

    1. There is a very big difference between busking and begging…rest assured though that these performers are not begging for it…

  2. In Philippines you can find lots of musician too. But there is a big difference from our street musician back home compare to the street musician you mentioned and shown in your post, such as the instrument they are using. Anyhow, it still entertains passerby in different ways.

  3. i love stopping and listening to them as well here in my city, sometimes, i purposely go to the park to simply listen 🙂 anyway, i have not heard of glass water before, hope to be able to hear it live someday too.

  4. Wow! I bet these musicians play beautiful music. I am sure that I will stop and listen to their performance. Vienna is a beautiful European country and I learned more each time you shared your post 🙂

  5. I think and feel they are better and more authentic as artists than the ones we have now in the mainstream. They should replace the likes of Miley Cyrus, Nikki Minaj, Justin Bieber and other artists who clearly don’t have real talents like these street performers.

    I’ve heard and watched street performers in the US who play better and way, way more professionally sounding than the artists of this generation. I think they should be given the right exposure to showcase their talent.

  6. I like places like that! My husband and I, whenever we are in the city of Chicago, upon roaming around the busy streets, when we see someone along the streets playing his heart and soul with whatever instrument he/she has, we would always stop by for a while and enjoy the music. And then, hand out a bill or two in appreciation for what we just heard. Music is beautiful. For us, we could always take a pause from whatever we are into and just enjoy a good melody.

  7. Buskers are very common in Europe. I’ve seen many of them already but there talents are exquisite. Sometimes they sell their own CD which is a very good way to be reminded of these great people.

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