This 2020 Easter weekend was certainly one to remember.
Around the world, many who normally would have gathered for worship and celebration with family and friends found themselves instead confined to their homes and unable to gather due to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. Streets normally bustling with activity were eerily silent. Sanctuaries typically packed with worshippers and guests sat empty and quiet.
Andrea Bocelli stepped into that silent void and used his celebrated tenor voice to offer comfort and healing to a world reeling with uncertainty and fear.
Bocelli presented “Music for Hope: Live From Duomo di Milano,” a free live-streamed concert, on Easter Sunday. He was alone inside the Milan Cathedral in Milan, Lombardy, Italy, save the organist who accompanied him from a safe distance. The cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete: construction began in 1386, and the final details were completed in 1965. It is ONE of Italy’s largest and most impressive cathedrals!
“On the day we celebrate the trust in a life that triumphs, I’m honored and happy to answer ‘si,’ “ Bocelli said in remarks during the opening of the concert, according to USA Today. “Thanks to music, streamed live, bringing together millions of clasped hands everywhere in the world, we will hug this wounded Earth’s pulsing heart.”
Bocelli went on to sing “Panis Angelicus,” “Ave Maria,” “Sancta Maria,” and “Domine Deus.” As his concert drew to a close, Bocelli walked the aisle that runs the length of the sanctuary and exited to the large, empty plaza just outside the cathedral doors. He closed the concert at the top of the steps with a slow, eloquent version of Amazing Grace, ending on the lyric “I once was blind, but now I see.” The words seemed especially plaintive and hopeful from the lips of Bocelli, who was born with congenital glaucoma and completely blind since a soccer injury as a child.
It takes moxie to bring hope in such troubled times, and Bocelli brought it to a record-breaking number of people on Easter Sunday 2020. The YouTube video was viewed more than 28 million times in the first 24 hours and became the most viewed classical music video on YouTube.
More on Bocelli’s moxie:
Bocelli was born into a farming family near Tuscany. Shortly after he was born, it became clear that something was wrong with his eyesight. He was soon diagnosed with congenital glaucoma.
Despite his vision challenges and the fact that no one in his immediate family was musically inclined, young Bocelli demonstrated an early aptitude for music. The young prodigy mastered a number of instruments and began entering and winning singing contests as a teen.
It would seem natural that he would pursue a career in music, but his parents wanted him to pursue a law degree. He honored their guidance and earned his law degree and landed a job as an attorney. But he continued to perform in piano bars to earn extra money. Eventually, a demo tape cut by Bocelli made its way into the hands of Luciano Pavarotti, who was impressed by the singer’s talent and began to open doors for him.
Bocelli pursued his passion despite health challenges and professional commitments. That takes moxie.
Moxie creates fusion.
About that demo tape … it figures significantly into Bocelli’s story in a number of ways.
Bocelli got the opportunity to cut that tape when Italian rock star Zucchero held auditions for tenors to make a demo tape of his song “Miserere.” Zucchero was hoping the demo tape would convince Italy’s most famous tenor Luciano Pavarotti to perform the song with him. Pavarotti heard the demo and declared that Bocelli’s rendition was so good that he should be the one to sing it. Bocelli ended up joining Zucchero on tour to sing the song and a solo set.
The song was a fusion featuring Zucchero’s bluesy rock stying and Bocelli’s polished tenor. That breakout hit seemed to set the tone for the rest of Bocelli’s career, which has pivoted effortlessly between classical/opera and pop. While it’s not his primary mission, he’s played an important role in introducing scores of new fans to opera and making it more accessible to more people.
Moxie shares the stage.
Another hallmark of Bocelli’s career that surface in that early demo tape is duets. Bocelli has teamed up with some of the most distinctive voices of this generation to produce powerful music. Duets also harken back to his days in the piano bar.
His partners have included Sarah Brightman, Ariana Grande, Nicole Scherzinger, Ed Sheeran, Nelly Furtado, and Jennifer Lopez. That’s quite a diverse set of artists.
It takes a special kind of confidence, passion, and moxie to share the spotlight.