BCC Yo-Yo Ma

Those with a vaccination appointment at the Berkshire Community College field house got more than a jab on Saturday, when Yo-Yo Ma treated them to a concert while they served out the mandatory 15 minute waiting period. (BERKSHIRE COMMUNITY COLLEGE FACEBOOK)

In the final round of this grueling fight against an invisible opponent, we are all desperately waiting for the bell to ring. But on Saturday afternoon, those at the Berkshire Community College COVID-19 vaccine clinic heard something else.

After receiving second dose, Yo-Yo Ma transforms waiting period into performance at Pittsfield vax clinic

Internationally renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma had just received his second dose, and took a seat along the wall of BCC’s field house for the required 15 minutes of observation. He could have just waited, content in the knowledge that he was better protected from a pandemic that has caused much suffering over the last year. But the musician “wanted to give something back,” as a Berkshire COVID-19 Vaccine Collaborative official told The Eagle.

So Yo-Yo Ma did what he does best — he played. And as he gently bowed his cello and gave lush accompaniment to the clinic’s tightly orchestrated efforts, everyone there — the anxiously awaiting, the just-jabbed, the workers who make the vaccine site a life-saving reality — shared in a few minutes of musical sublimity and heartfelt gratitude.

It was one of those rich yet ephemeral moments that exemplify the unique treasures our community is lucky to share. But it was something deeper, too — a spark of uniquely Berkshire soul that testifies to the best of our shared human spirit, indefatigable in both strength and tenderness even in the face of great tribulation.

We are not all of us health care workers, but we all can care for each other. Mr. Ma is a world-class virtuoso, but on Saturday he was simply a thoughtful neighbor and a grateful patient giving thanks and kindness in a way that only he can. And while his performance drew a round of applause at the clinic, the sweet sonic gesture was also a reminder that those most-deserving of an ovation are those who make these clinics possible. To finish this fight, we need the vaccine – and we need each other, too.

Workers and volunteers at BCC in Pittsfield, W.E.B. Du Bois Regional Middle School in Great Barrington and St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in North Adams have worked hard to run Berkshire vaccination sites as smoothly as possible amid the state’s rocky vaccine rollout. And if the countless letters to the editor are any indication, many Berkshirites share the famed cellist’s appreciation for our local clinics and those who run them.

Why did Yo-Yo Ma perform at Pittsfield vaccine site? It turns out, he couldn't leave his cello in the car

On March 13, 2020, as the nation plunged into the coronavirus crisis, Mr. Ma tweeted a video of a home performance, hoping to comfort others with a piece that comforts him: a Dvorak theme from the “New World Symphony” adapted into a spiritual called “Going Home.”

On Saturday, one year later to the day, Mr. Ma once again thought to comfort others in a trying time. Now, after a long year, we are going home — toward normalcy and healing and restoration — and we’ll get there faster if we get there together. Hopefully that’s a tune with which we can all resonate.