While the coronavirus pandemic has been reshaping daily life and leaving an imprint on our collective psyche, artists have been doing what they do: creating work borne out of those experiences.
World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma weeks ago sought to soothe our anxieties by performing mini concerts and making them accessible to everyone. He also put out a call for others to join him under the hashtag #SongsOfComfort. Many people heeded the call, recording themselves making music from inside their homes while cases of COVID-19 increased worldwide.
Ma, who has continued to post selected songs to his official social media channels, revived a song he performed in 1985 for Fred Rogers’ long-running children’s TV show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
Years ago, I visited my friend #MisterRogers to play this song. This is for the kids and their grown-ups who are at home together. Sing along with me! #songsofcomfort
Tree Tree Tree
Tree Tree Tree…
We love you
Yes we do
Yes we do
We love you
Original: https://t.co/15d8fp0u4t pic.twitter.com/T2c9PuaVAB
— Yo-Yo Ma (@YoYo_Ma) March 24, 2020
“This is for the kids and their grown-ups who are at home together,” Ma said in a tweet.
We’d like to hear from you. Using the #SongsOfComfort hashtag, share your videos and photos to the NewsHour’s Canvas arts Facebook group here. We may use them for a future story on air, or online.
The PBS NewsHour has received a few hundred #SongsOfComfort submissions on its social media channels alone, including its Canvas arts Facebook group.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston tweeted a short clip of patient transporter Lindon Beckford, wearing a face mask, singing, “Give it up, give it up for the first responders. Give it up, give it up for the health care workers.”
— BIDMC (@BIDMChealth) March 26, 2020
Beckford told the NewsHour that he thought of the quick tribute to the front-line workers on the spot, saying he wanted them to know that “we’re behind them 100 precent because we know it’s very stressful.” Beckford, who has been serenading patients and his colleagues for decades, is also on the front line of this crisis, as someone who transports patients back and forth between procedures.
Before he joined the hospital, Beckford said, singing was his own personal form of care. He said he’s dealt with anxiety all his life — and singing is a way to calm his own nerves. So when he sees a patient being nervous, he engages in the normal chit-chat — the Red Sox, the Patriots, their pets — but, Beckford said he notices a difference when he sings.
“Once I get into singing, then I can see the difference,” he said, “because sometimes [you] can see their lips moving. Some of them even sing along with me.”
(Beckford singing Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” is featured at the end of the NewsHour’s podcast episode about people’s isolation stories amid the pandemic. The song is best remembered for the repeated chorus of “don’t worry about a thing.”)
Beckford isn’t alone in turning to music for comfort. Here were some other submissions that caught our eyes:
Folk musician Reggie Garrett performed his original song “Ruby” at home in Seattle.
Mike Kligerman and his wife Carolyn sang and played “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” a 1940s song made popular by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, on their ukuleles.
You gotta accentuate the positive!
Posted by Mike Kligerman on Sunday, March 22, 2020
A varsity mariachi band in Roma, Texas, which sits along the U.S.-Mexico border, made a video of all the young musicians playing, while social distancing, from each of their homes.
Varsity mariachi first song from home. Enjoy!Full song
Posted by Roma ISD Maríachi Program on Wednesday, March 25, 2020
The high schoolers are part of the Roma Independent School District’s mariachi program. Director Eloy Garza said the South Texas program is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
Noah, an 11-year-old cellist in Minnesota, played Johann Sebastian Bach. Noah was going to be part of a Minneapolis production of “La Bohème,” but the theater closed before opening night due to the pandemic.
Noah, heeding cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s call for Songs of Comfort—here is his. Be well, everyone. “Bourrée I” from the Suite in C Major, JS Bach#SongsOfComfort
Posted by Alecia White Scharback on Thursday, March 26, 2020
In New Hampshire, fiddler Liz Faiella played an Irish slow air — “Táimse Im’ Chodladh” (“I Am Asleep”) — saying in her Facebook post, “I think we can all use a peaceful lullaby now and again. Especially now.”