Paris (AFP)

A "balcony-concert", an aria at the window: every evening, from one end of France to the other, the silence of the long hours of confinement is broken by artists offering a little musical escapade to their confined neighbors.

"When I see the smile that I bring each evening with my song, it's nice," said AFP tenor Stéphane Sénéchal who sings every day at 7:00 p.m. an aria from the window of his apartment, located in the IXth district of Paris.

"All day long, we are told of tragic things, of the dead. When I see smiles, I see hope. It's a little moment of freedom, of escape," he adds.

He says he lives in a neighborhood where "there are a lot of elderly people" and it is a reflection of a neighbor of 80 years old at the beginning of the confinement that pushed him to sing at his window.

- Celebrate life -

"She told me + we will feel even more isolated +. I was rehearsing the role of Don José in Carmen at the time and after this remark I went out to do vocalizations at the window".

He will start by singing the Marseillaise then will chain each beginning of the evening with tunes as varied as "I gave you my heart" from the operetta "The land of the smile", "Piensa en mi", the song "Caruso", "Edith Piaf's hymn to love" or even an "Ave Maria", dedicated "to all the suffering".

Or a famous tune from Puccini's opera Tosca, "E Lucevan le stelle" whose last sentence is for Sénéchal very symbolic: "E non ho amato mai tanto la vita! (I have never loved life so much) "We realize the importance of life. And we can't give up now," he said.

He seems to have touched not only his neighbors but beyond. "A patient with Covid-19 and hospitalized in Bichat saw one of my videos and said + continue +; for me the game is won".

Since the beginning of confinement in France, like the Italian and Spanish neighbors, initiatives have flourished: the city of Montreuil is particularly active, regularly sharing videos of a violinist, a guitarist or a singer with their balconies.

- From Occitania to Alsace -

"We are dozens every week playing, from Montpellier to Paris, via Nantes, Strasbourg or Lille," said AFP Sarah Niblack, director of Classical Revolution France.

"Bach is the greatest of companions, you are never alone with your music", assures this American who has lived in France for several years. Settled in Prades (Pyrénées Orientales) since the beginning of confinement, she says she is happy to bring "comfort and a little moment when people come together", in these times of isolation.

"People recognize me now, even when I do my shopping with mask and gloves, I am told in the street, + you are the girl who plays Bach", laughs this intermittent violist who plays in several national orchestras and who has seen six of its contracts canceled all at once.

"We are not useful in a hospital but we can make a little difference in people's lives. They appreciate that we think of them."

Also in Paris, from the top of the balcony of his apartment overlooking the boulevard Saint Michel, Camilo Peralta, cellist at the Ile-de-France National Orchestra, plays Bach suites at noon, to the pleasure of the neighbors but also of some rare passers-by.

"We are inevitably caught up in the situation because every time I play, there is an ambulance that passes," he says.

In Mulhouse, hard hit by the epidemic, the violinist Jessy Koch plays every day at 6.30pm on her balcony: "It is not easy to work alone, aimlessly. And there I started to have a small audience who awaits the little concert. Life goes on. "

© 2020 AFP