Back in June, on the longest day of the year, I had the pleasure of listening to the world’s foremost cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, play a free concert in at Millenium Park downtown Chicago. Millenium Park claims a capacity of 11,000 people. Some estimates of the number of people gathered inside — and outside — the park’s borders were double that. Why did so many Chicagoans turn up for some cello music?
The program was simple: Yo-Yo Ma would perform the Six Suites for Solo Cello by J.S. Bach. No orchestra. No other instruments. Just one artist, one cello, and 20K listeners.
Certainly Yo-Yo Ma himself was a draw. He’s deservedly well known as a surpassingly skillful artist. Even so, I was awestruck by the number and diversity of people who assembled to listen. In close proximity to my picnic blanket were moms, dads, five-year-olds, teenage friends, senior citizens, folks of every race and ethnicity — an amazingly diverse collection of humans.
This diversity of people implies the real reason that so many thousands of Chicagoans were drawn to listen to cello music in the sunset hours of the longest day of 2019: The generosity of the music of Yo-Yo Ma.
It was apparent from the first stroke of his bow that the happiest man in the entire park was Yo-Yo Ma himself. This artist took such delight in performing the melodies born of Bach’s genius and sharing them free of charge with people from all walks of life. Classical music fans know when to clap and when to stay silent, but on this evening there was no way to stay silent for long. The power of music inspired not only inappropriately timed clapping, but whooping and hollering in way that seemed like a community-wide “Amen.”
Yo-Yo Ma played for two-and-a-half hours straight. No intermissions. No break. Incredibly, no one left. No one grew impatient. The generous power of music brought all of us listeners for together for a time.
This Sunday in worship at Elmhurst CRC, we will play host to Cellissimo, a local group of 15 talented young cellists. They possess a similar spirit of generosity to the patron saint of modern cellists, Yo-Yo Ma. I’m hoping and praying that this Sunday’s services will have a similarly generous vibe to the happening in Millenium Park back in June. Maybe that is too modest a prayer given that happens on Sunday takes place in Jesus’ name, the author of history’s ultimate act of generosity. May you find experience some musical and spirituality generosity this week.
*Photo: Todd Rosenberg