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I feel honored to have hosted the fabulous show last night of Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble at the Hollywood Bowl, part of the KCRW World Festival Series this summer. The performance exceeded my highest expectations. The Silk Road Ensemble is a musical United Nations, with the renowned cellist working with musicians from China, India, Japan, Syria, Iran, Russia, Spain, Central Asia and the U.S. The group has now been together for 18 years (“legal” now, according to Yo-Yo), honing its skills and harmony to perfection and expertly melding world music with classical traditions. And for me, the joy of watching the musicians smiling and exulting in the musical tapestry was truly infectious. Each member of the group performs with classical rigor regardless of which music tradition he or she comes from, but how often do you see classical-type musicians smiling on stage?
Highlights for me were solos by the Galician gaita virtuoso Cristina Pato (the gaita is the the Spanish bagpipe from the Celtic region of NW Spain) and Syrian clarinetist Kinan Azmeh, whose deep, plaintive notes gave me chills, especially when he led the group in a Syrian wedding song, saying that weddings still do indeed take place there, with love triumphant over war, death and devastation. For her part, Pato played a mesmerizing Coltrane-like solo in the second half of the concert. She also doubled as a first-rate pianist at the big Steinway grand.
It’s well-known that music brings different people together. Nowhere was that more truthful than last night at the Hollywood Bowl.
If you attended the show (or not), I want to recommend again a documentary on the group, The Music of Strangers. Watch the trailer and be convinced to see the whole film.
The group tours Asia beginning in November. Highly recommended!