The heartwarming story of a man who believes Spain's nightly applause is just for him

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 23 Mar, 2020 Updated Mon 23 Mar 2020 13:45 CEST
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Throughout the coronavirus crisis, those in lockdown across Spain have looked forward to 8pm each day when people go out onto their balconies or open their windows to show their appreciation for the nation's medical staff who are risking their lives to fight the virus.


For many people it is the highlight of their day, a moment of connection with neighbours and an act of solidarity that reminds everyone that we are all in this together.

Videos of the nightly event are widely shared on social media finding a global audience and providing one of the few positive stories of the crisis. 


One elderly gentleman in Vigo, however, believes the applause and whistles are solely for him.

Hermann Schreiber, a German-born octogenarian who has spent the majority of his life with his Spanish wife, suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and has sadly forgotten his Spanish; what he has not forgotten, however, is how to play his harmonica.

Each evening when the applause begins,  Schreiber throws open his window, raises the instrument to his mouth and delivers what he believes to be a performance for his gathered audience; neighbours who have gathered at their windows.

He believes that the cheers and applause are solely for him and his harmonica.

His carer, Tamara Sayar, is partly responsible for the impromptu concerts. She encouraged Schreiber to believe the nationwide ovation is for him, but worries that she may "have created a monster because now Hermann rehearses all day”.

Sayar has recorded several videos of Schreiber’s performances and posted them on social media. In one, she can be heard asking Schreiber if he is nervous. “It’s a lot of people. I understand”, she says. But Schreiber continues playing through grins and giggles before joining in with the applause.


A post shared by Agencia EFE (@efe_noticias) on Mar 19, 2020 at 10:14am PDT


Schreiber and his wife, Teresa - a Galician - met in Unterkirnach, Germany, a southern region of the Black Forest where they subsequently made their home, visiting her native Galcian hometown, Vigo, during holidays.

They were on such a trip back to visit her family when Spain went into lockdown. 

“The disease has confined them”, explained Sayar. Luckily, Herman was able to procure his medication through other means.

The health worker explained that her work with the elderly means she is separated from her husband and child by almost 60km. They are isolating in Sanxenxobut she understands the high-risk nature of her profession.

They video call everyday, unsure how long the forced separation will last. But luckily, Tamara has Schreiber and his harmonica to keep her company.

By Conor Faulkner for The Local Spain.




The Local 2020/03/23 13:45

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