As communities, families, and individuals across Europe and the United States adjust to sheltering in place, many are seeking comfort, or at least distraction, during long stints of social isolation. Award-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma is lending a bow-wielding hand.
The low, tonal notes of the cello are by their nature a calming, centering sound. Mr. Ma is sharing his favorite “songs of comfort” on social media, and is calling on others to do the same – no cello required. He posted his first video on March 13, writing: “In these days of anxiety, I wanted to find a way to continue to share some of the music that gives me comfort...Stay safe.” The accompanying rendition of “Goin’ Home” by Antonín Dvořák has been played more than 170,000 times on YouTube.
In an interview on PBS, Mr. Ma said that the idea for “songs of comfort” came spontaneously as he wondered how to help people through this global crisis. “Music always has been comforting to me,” he said. “This is what I do, and this is the best that I can offer.”
He dedicated a later performance of the Sarabande from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3 to health-care workers on the pandemic’s frontlines, and added “The Swan” by Camille Saint-Saëns to the list on March 19. The international response is equally uplifting: celebrities like Carole King are sharing the virtual spotlight with amateur pianists using #songsofcomfort. The growing collection of songs, which includes covers and original pieces from many genres, performed by musicians of all ages and abilities, reflects the universal and infectious joy of making, sharing, and experiencing music.