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How Yo-Yo Ma's 'Songs of Comfort' are inspiring musical collaboration


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Judy Woodruff: Finally tonight, our occasional look at the Songs of Comfort project that world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma launched on social media.

Jeffrey Brown looks at the growing collaboration in these mini-performances, as tough times bring people together through music and technology.

It's part of our ongoing arts and culture series, Canvas.

Jeffrey Brown: In a time of isolation, a desire to connect through music.

As the psychology of pandemic changes through the weeks, you can see that play out in the #SongsofComfort project through more and more collaborations.

That includes the man who started it all, Yo-Yo Ma, who recorded a distanced duet with celebrated West African singer Angelique Kidjo, and another with Syrian-born clarinetist Kinan Azmeh.

The urge to merge is often a family affair, as with this young mother and father in their Berlin, Germany, living room, their new baby adding a little percussion.

In Arizona, six women family members put the '70s song "I'd Like to Teach the World" to sing to multistringed accompaniment, joined by the whistling of the person capturing it all on camera.

And a violinist with the Washington, D.C.-area National Philharmonic sat down with her guitar-playing son for a piece by Astor Piazzolla.

There are also more elaborate cross-genre collaborations, a delightful Bach to the Barre breakfast scene created by musicians from the Toronto Symphony and dancers with the Canadian National Ballet, plus two children, who performed their roles to perfection.

Much older children at Potomac, Maryland's St. Andrews Episcopal School sang, "Oh happy Day," joined by alumni and faculty. And 24 student cellists from around the world managed to get together for a performance of Saint-Saens' "The Swan."

In Houston, members of the symphony, used to playing together on stage, created a virtual quartet. And while it can be a lonely time for many, technology allows another kind of quartet, all the parts performed by one individual.

Songs played alone, songs played together. And, as we saw in that Berlin living room, some things don't change, the desire to share and maybe inspire the next generation.

For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jeffrey Brown.

Judy Woodruff: Songs of Comfort, that has to continue after this pandemic.

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