Metro Weekly

Spotlight: Yo-Yo Ma’s #SongsOfComfort

Acclaimed cellist sparks social media movement with short-form performances

Yo-Yo Ma, songs of comfort, music

Yo-Yo Ma

A week ago, Yo-Yo Ma premiered a series of short video posts on various social media platforms with the premise, “In these days of anxiety, I wanted to find a way to continue to share some of the music that gives me comfort.”

The acclaimed celebrity cellist launched the #SongsOfComfort series by posting a clip, less than two minutes in length, of an unaccompanied performance of Dvořák’s “Going Home” from what is presumably his home office.

In successive days, Ma posted similar, roughly three-minute clips featuring him at his cello playing Saint-Saëns’ “The Swan” and the “Sarabande” from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3, the latter of which he dedicated to “the healthcare workers on the frontlines” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Your ability to balance human connection and scientific truth in service of us all gives me hope,” he wrote.

Ma’s series has been a grassroots inspiration, with an eclectic assortment of musicians using the hashtag — over 2,500 and counting on Instagram alone — to post similarly short clips of musical selections that offer a sense of comfort.

Some classical musicians have followed Ma’s lead, providing short performance selfies. Tona Brown of Northern Virginia’s Aida Studios, for instance, is seen playing the beginning of Chopin’s fluttery and gorgeous “Nocturne in C sharp minor” on violin.

Others go beyond that, from singing guitarist Brandon McNeice’s folk/pop rendition of Stephen Foster’s 1854 art song “Hard Times Come Again No More,” to various family or roommate singalongs, to the Indigo Girls, who donated the performance of their 1992 hit “Galileo” during their live stream concert last week to the #SongsOfComfort cause.

And then there’s the stylized music video featuring Brazilian electric violinist Anna Murakawa wandering a winding, bayfront street in Sydney while performing an instrumental cover of “You Need to Calm Down” by Taylor Swift, which is far more calming than the original ever was.


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Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @ruleonwriting.

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