Cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Kathryn Stott’s newest collaboration, Songs of Comfort and Hope, is available now on Sony Classical. A new performance video for “Ol’ Man River” accompanies the album release – watch here. Songs of Comfort and Hope is inspired by the series of recorded-at-home musical offerings that Ma began sharing in the first days of the COVID-19 lockdown in the United States. Throughout the spring and summer, Yo-Yo Ma’s #SongsofComfort grew from a self-shot video of Antonín Dvořák’s “Goin’ Home” into a worldwide effort that has reached more than 20 million people.
Ma and Stott mark the next chapter in the project with this new album, offering consolation and connection in the face of fear and isolation. The album includes 21 new recordings, which span modern arrangements of traditional folk tunes, canonical pop songs, jazz standards, and mainstays from the western classical repertoire. “Songs are little time capsules of emotions: they can contain long-lost dreams and desires, and feelings of great spirit, optimism, and unity,” Ma and Stott write of Songs of Comfort and Hope.
“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,” Ma told The New York Times Magazine. “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. …We need music to make us feel at equilibrium through hard times and good times.”
“Songs bring a sense of community, identity, and purpose, crossing boundaries and binding us together in thanks, consolation, and encouragement. It had long been our wish to explore this medium further, but we could never have imagined that the catalyst would be a pandemic that fundamentally rearranged our ways of living. This is music that tells stories, that marks occasions private and public, that gives voice to celebrations, remembrances, and all of life’s mysteries. These are songs that pay tribute to musical champions of social justice — like Paul Robeson and Violeta Parra — and to the troubadours of our joy, imagination, and sorrow — like Francis Poulenc, Wu Tong, and Benjamin Britten.”