Cellist Yo-Yo Ma Plays “Simple Gifts”

During lockdown, people the world over have derived comfort from music. What can it teach us about peace? A new project is asking artists to express what music means to them. Behind this effort is President Obama’s sister Maya Soetoro, founder of The Peace Studio. She joins the program alongside famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Read Transcript EXPAND

MAYA SOETORO, SISTER OF BARACK OBAMA: Well, I loved it. I loved the podcast, and I loved my brother’s eulogy. As I said to someone on your staff, that man can talk. But I think that if you listen to the podcast in its entirety, they begin with their stories, their individual stories, their story of coming together. And this is where we begin forging our movements and context and culture and community. This is where we need to think about peace as action-oriented and part of the everyday work to uplift one another. And we need to listen to ideas from every space, and from young and old and big and small, in order to create that change and to sustain that optimism, because we don’t have a choice. And I’m really grateful for everyone’s participation. Please know that there are so many places where you can enter the stream. Let’s do this together.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Well, on that note, in this space, we’re going to have Yo-Yo Ma play us out with a 19th century Shaker tune which everybody will know, I hope. It’s called “Simple Gifts,” and I know you feel it has particular resonance now.

YO-YO MA, CELLIST: Absolutely, because that was — that melody was included in the inaugural music that John Williams wrote for President Obama, and it’s spiritual, it’s communal, it’s invented — as in (ph) everything that we do. And ultimately it brings us into the celebration of the cycle of life. And it just starts with “Simple Gifts.”


About This Episode EXPAND

Biden adviser Antony Blinken responds to President Trump’s tweet suggesting the November election should be delayed. The director-general of the WTO discusses a historic downturn in the U.S. economy. Yo-Yo Ma and Maya Soetoro discuss a new project asking artists what music means to them. Andy Slavitt explains his “kitchen sink” strategy for combating the COVID-19 pandemic.