September 23, 2023

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Yo-Yo Ma Performs Unannounced Concert in School Gym After Getting His COVID Vaccine

Yo-Yo Ma, arguably the most celebrated living performer of Western classical music, received his second coronavirus jab at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, Massachusetts on Friday. While waiting the fifteen minutes post-injection (as patients are requested to do, just in case of a rare allergic reactions) he did what any one of us would do if we could play the cello like Yo-Yo Ma. He played the cello.

To the delight of the onsite medical workers and the sprinkling of other recent shot-receivers, the 18x Grammy-winner played tunes that even people who don’t know much about classical music know.

Here is a clip of him performing “Ave Maria” written by Franz Schubert.

And here is the Prélude to the “Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major” by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Finally, here’s a quick, lovely moment of an appreciative audience and a performer who, if you told him a year ago he’d be playing in a gymnasium-as-emergency-health-facility instead of Carnegie Hall, would have said you were nuts.

Because sometimes life works out just so, this impromptu concert (and Ma’s final inoculation) came exactly one year after he took to social media to begin a series of performances called #SongsOfComfort. The March 13, 2020 selection was “Going Home” written by Antonin Dvořák.

During the pandemic year Ma recorded an album called Songs of Comfort and Hope with pianist Kathryn Stott, which collected well-known classical melodies, traditional songs like “Shenandoah” and “Amazing Grace,” and work by new composers like Wu Tong of the Silk Road Ensemble.

He also performed on the back of a flatbed truck in the Berkshires area for a series of nine concerts with his longtime associate, pianist Emanuel Ax. They also live-streamed a (six feet apart) concert celebrating Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th birthday in December.

Never one to miss a good joke, Ma publicized the event using this meme format.

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