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Lakeview, Wrigleyville, Northalsted

Strangers In Lakeview High Rises Form A Nightly ‘Noise Brigade’ On Fire Escapes During Coronavirus Lockdown

The nightly noise-concerts may not be a rendition of Puccini’s Nessun Dorma as seen in Italy, but it provides a real feeling of unity.

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LAKEVIEW — Behind several Lakeview high-rise buildings every night at precisely 8 p.m., neighbors have opened their windows and climbed out onto fire escapes to let out screams and hoots, bang on pots and pans, clap and whistle for about three minutes, until someone begins playing a trumpet, signifying the close of the night’s “concert” by what one resident has dubbed “The Noise Brigade.”

It is partly to let off steam, with people stuck inside due to the stay at home order, and partly to entertain each other — and it’s bringing neighbors who are strangers together. 

The nightly events began about a week ago, according to Grace Faoro, who lives in one of the participating buildings at 415 W. Aldine Ave. It started when a few neighbors decided to turn on a strobe light and started banging on pots and pans and over the next few days, it grew to include several neighbors who began screaming, whistling and making  strange sound effects from open windows and on fire-escapes. It usually lasts about three minutes until an unknown neighbor plays a few notes from a trumpet, indicating last call for the night’s show.

All in all, residents from about nine high-rise buildings near inner Lake Shore Drive and Belmont and east to Aldine Ave., take part. Most of the buildings there are high rises from the 1920s and form a sort-of courtyard effect from the back side. With their fire escapes and double-hung windows, the scene looks and feels like something out of Alfred Hitchcock’s  classic film “Rear Window” — with screams included.

“They are solid brick buildings and the space between them forms a courtyard-like atmosphere that the sound vibrates off. It’s so loud, but I love it,” Faoro said. “If you live in any of these apartments, there’s no way that you can’t hear it. I don’t care what kind of windows you have.”

Faoro said the first time she heard it, she recognized what was going on immediately. 

“I knew what it was because they had been doing it in Italy and I speak Italian and watch the Italian news,” Faoro said. “I didn’t think Americans were going to catch on, especially over here because people don’t know one another. It’s been going on for about a week and getting stronger every day. You can tell there’s momentum,” she said.

Although Faoro, 48, has lived in Lakeview for 25 years, she said she’s only been in her current building for about 8 months and being in a high-rise is a change for her, adding that the nightly noise-concerts may not be a rendition of Puccini’s Nessun Dorma, but it provides a real feeling of unity.

“This is my first time living in a high-rise. I’ve always lived in a three flat and knew my neighbors. Here, I don’t even see my neighbors on the elevator, it’s weird. So, this is really super cool,” she said.

Faoro, who wrote a memoir based on conversations with her grandmother about her life in 2012, has been writing a journal since she began working from home four weeks ago and recently wrote an entry about what she’s dubbed “the Noise Brigade.”

In it, she describes what has been a nightly thing:

To my left at the adjoining building two female silhouettes emerge from the darkness.  They are backlit on a wide fire escape landing.  One is banging on the back of a pan; the other is holding a swaddled baby.  They spot me in my window; the woman with the baby does a small reluctant wave from underneath the baby’s blanket.  I am standing in a corner next to my window. The lights are out in my apartment.  I am blowing into my whistle. It is stainless steel and the shrill is making my nostrils and eardrums rivet in my skull.  The vibrations of the noise, my diaphragm pushing with such new found energy and the clatter and echoing of the solid noise of clapping, cheering, screaming, laughing, banging and now, my new whistle has been added to the team.  In just a few seconds, the volume and pace increases.”

Though she can’t even see her neighbors — it’s pretty dark at 8 p.m. — she said it’s given her a feeling of comfort and unity in this uncertain time.

“I love it. I’m actually look forward to it every night. It’s so great to see the people and at the end, when everything stops, you can hear random people yelling ‘Thank you, thank you everybody! Take care, everybody!’ It’s so cool.”

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