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Traditional violin craftsmanship in Cremona

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the city of Cremona in northern Italy’s Lombardy region is one of the most affected areas in the world. The city is home to the UNESCO element, ‘Traditional violin craftsmanship in Cremona, inscribed in 2012 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) of Humanity. Traditional violinmaking is fundamental to the identity of Cremona and its citizens and plays an irreplaceable role in the city’s social and cultural practices and rituals. The traditional violinmakers have been affected in two significant ways. Firstly, since the onset of the government-mandated lockdown and associated containment measures, violinmakers are prevented from entering their laboratories and workshops which has, in turn, impeded their ability to continue their practice. Secondly, the crisis led to the closure of cultural institutions, including museums, which form part of the Cremonese community as the guardians of knowledge and immaterial know-how, together with the tangible collections of artefacts and instruments associated therewith.

To cope with the short-term impacts of crisis on the Cremonese community’s living heritage, formal and informal collaboration has proven vital for raising awareness, particularly the latter. Indeed, for a community with over 150 violinmakers, gathering all individuals together in a formal virtual setting has proven difficult. The Municipality of Cremona, the governance body of the element, has maintained constant communication with key institutions including the Consortium of Violinmakers, Cremona Chamber of Commerce and the Craft Associations to ensure the survival of the Cremonese violinmaking community whose vitality, as bearers of practice, has been directly hindered. The Municipality also continues to work closely with the Violin Museum in Cremona and community representatives, including, the Cultural District of Violin Making, the governance body of the Cremonese community, (in particular, the ‘Claudio Monteverdi’ Institute of Musical Studies and the International School of Violin Making) to connect with the community, musicians, professionals, television companies and local media (such as Unomedia and ProCremona) and carry out promotional activities dedicated to the community.

In particular, the Violin Museum in Cremona (“Museo del Violino”) has intensified its activity with social networks, continued to send newsletters to teachers and students with teaching materials to be utilised in distance lessons, and maintained virtual connections with musicians to produce videos and collaborate for auditions. On Easter Sunday, the broadcaster Cremona 1 transmitted a special hearing dedicated to all citizens, filmed in the deserted Arvedi Auditorium with the Stradivari violin, ‘the Cremonese symbol of the city’. This was a very symbolic moment as the violin used was the first Stradivarius that was purchased in 1961 by Cremonese public bodies and, in fact, marked the beginning of the “Collections” and the reappropriation of Cremonese identity awareness. This audition, along with others, has been broadcasted on YouTube in an attempt to stay connected with the visitors of the Museum, a core component of the community. Among the initiatives implemented by the Museum to adapt to the circumstances and facilitate the continued practice of their community’s living heritage are:

a) A video to promote the violinmaking exhibited in the Violin Museum in Cremona which may be found on the Museum’s website;
b) A music video dedicated to the ‘deserted’ City of Cremona, filmed a few days after the start of the lockdown and made with the violinist Lena Yokoyama. This was filmed while performing on the top of the Torrazzo, the symbol of the city;
c) A music video dedicated to doctors, volunteers, patients and the team of the American NGO “Samaritan Purse” who assisted the Cremona Hospital. This was filmed with Lena Yokoyama, who performed from the top of the roof of the hospital in Cremona;
d) The music video filmed on Easter Sunday, with a special performance by the violinist Sara Zeneli with the violin by Antonio Stradivari “II Cremonese” 1715;
e) Various music videos with collaborating musicians of the Violin Museum in Cremona (including the violinist Edoardo Zosi and the cellist Francesco Nocerino) “packaged” by themselves to promote the Cremonese violinmaking heritage;
f) Streaming interviews with the General Manager and the Conservator of the Museo del Violino Collections;
g) A virtual tour of the museum, supported by the Google Arts & Culture platform, which can be accessed directly from the homepage of the Museum website;
h) Promotional materials including musical videos (such as those promoting the luthier heritage on display; music videos made with musicians Lena Yokoyama and Sara Zeneli; a comic book on Stradivari created specifically by the “Andrea Pazienza” Comic Strip Centre in Cremona; a Museo del Violino project dedicated to schools and distance learning which involves sending a proposal each week (creating a drawing, writing a short story set in the ‘deserted city’ of Cremona, designing a screenplay and graphics of a comic) which is sent to the Museum’s ‘schools’ mailing list.
i) On April 25, from the windows of the town hall, a student of the Monteverdi Institute, Lee Hesun, played the anthem of Mameli and ‘Bella Ciao’ on the violin;
j) The “Dance of the Hours” initiative presented by the Oleificio Zucchi & Ensemble A. Ponchielli;
k) The posting of students performances on ‘Claudio Monteverdi’ Institute of Music Studies Instagram page;

In the medium/longer term, the crisis has endangered the long-term economic sustainability of the community as it is difficult to ascertain how many workshops and laboratories will survive in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, as violinmaking in Cremona represents a vital symbol of the community’s identity and rich history, the crisis has impacted the community’s social sustainability and development. To this end, the Cultural District of Violinmakers has organised two capacity-building programmes. The first is for the elaboration of a Safeguarding Plan for the Traditional Violin Craftsmanship in Cremona. The second one relates to sustainable economic development and the denominations of origin and Geographical Indications. In particular, the former programme on the elaboration of a safeguarding plan is in the process of being accredited as a UNESCO capacity building programme and will be open to both Italian ICH communities and South-East Europe (SEE) Member States. Due to the ongoing state of pandemic, both capacity-building programmes will also be held virtually and in the form of a webinar for greater access.

Relevant Links

a) A video to promote the violinmaking exhibited in the Violin Museum in Cremona, which can be found on the Museum’s website (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uume3jtJfhc&feature=youtu.be);

b) a music video dedicated to the ‘deserted’ City of Cremona, filmed a few days after the start of the lockdown and made with the violinist Lena Yokoyama. This was filmed while performing on the top of the Torrazzo, the symbol of the city (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F13JrI3_Ams);

c) music video dedicated to doctors, volunteers, patients and the team of the American NGO “Samaritan Purse” who assisted the Cremona Hospital. This was filmed with Lena Yokoyama, who performed from the top of the roof of the same hospital in Cremona (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8XCDISKwEI);

d) the music video filmed on Easter Sunday, with a special performance by the violinist Sara Zeneli with the violin by Antonio Stradivari “II Cremonese” 1715 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AnvsmvqhYk&t=71s);

e) various music videos with collaborating musicians of the Violin Museum in Cremona (including the violinist Edoardo Zosi and the cellist Francesco Nocerino) “packaged” by themselves to promote the Cremonese violin making heritage (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgtJ-S8TpCg) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDVTi6AveDE);

f) a virtual tour of the museum, supported by the Google Arts & Culture platform, which can be accessed directly from the homepage of the Museum website (https://artsandculture.google.com/streetview/museo-del-violino/MAEHDkjwZdBSrQ?sv_lng=10.0233400294062&sv_lat=45.13154057271744&sv_h=21.03720386270915&sv_p=3.79882230738869&sv_pid=-_JZhikl8u1HaRoRQiOSNg&sv_z=1);

g) video of the student of the Monteverdi Institute, Lee Hesun, playing the Mameli anthem and ‘Bella Ciao” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWnJfRVmK6w);

h) “Dance of the Hours” initiative presented by the Oleificio Zucchi & Ensemble A. Ponchielli (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mo-JvKTa4nE&feature=youtu.be)


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