Yo-Yo Ma brought his cello along to a vaccination centre in Massachusetts.
Attending the Berkshire Community College for his second jab, he “wanted to give something back” and gave a 15-minute recital with pieces by Schubert and Bach.
Leslie Drager, the lead clinical manager at the centre, told The Washington Post,
It was so weird how peaceful the whole building became, just having a little bit of music in the background.
Last year, Ma had a stage created on a flatbed lorry that carried him and pianist Emanuel Ax around the Berkshires area to perform surprise concerts for small groups of essential workers.
In a long interview with The New York Times Magazine last November, Ma said,
What the pandemic has crystallized in my mind is that we need music because it helps us to get to very specific states of mind. It’s not like, “Listen to my music; it will help.” But rather, everybody wants to get to certain states of mind during the day, during the cycle of the season. And during a pandemic, with the alienation of not having social contact, music is also that physical force. It’s energy.
Then you get to more complex things, like how certain songs elicit memory. Certain smells can get to an immediate childhood memory of your grandmother’s baking apple pie. Music can do the same thing. Your first kiss. Your wedding. And unfortunately, during this time, we’ve lost a number of friends, and you have virtual memorial services and you play music for that.
All of which is to say that you do whatever is needed with music. We need music to make us feel at equilibrium through hard times and good times.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.