Our Opinion: Ma celebrates music, community

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It was a Yo-Yo Ma weekend in the Berkshires, highlighting the good fortune of the county to have this internationally renowned cellist and humanitarian as both a part-time resident and an active participant in the community.

On Saturday, Mr. Ma hosted a "Day of Action" at the Common on First Street in Pittsfield. In Mr. Ma's mission "to explore how culture connects humanity," the gathering brought together businesses, community organizations and residents for dialogues that will ideally lead to positive change ("Yo-Yo Ma brings a sense of community," Eagle, Aug. 11). More than 200 people were on hand. These Days of Action are one part of Mr. Ma's Bach Project, which has or will set down in places like Seoul, Melbourne, Athens, Barcelona — and, at the halfway point, Pittsfield — in a two-year, 36-stop effort to builder cooperation and togetherness. "There is too much division in the world today, and this is about us coming together," Mr. Ma told his audience on the Common.

On Saturday, the participants built tables made from Berkshire ash tree wood that were cut into 720 pieces by the Berkshire Woodworkers Guild. Each table will be laser-inscribed with messages completing the sentence that begins "The Berkshires make ..." Each message, selected from a batch suggested by area residents, will be displayed at the home bases of the organizations and businesses that participated or somewhere in the community. Among the slogans cited by Mr. Ma, who is a member of The Eagle's advisory committee, were "The Berkshires make sense," "The Berkshires make refugees feel welcome," and "The Berkshires make a place at the table for all."

The next evening, Mr. Ma was back on familiar turf, the Shed at Tanglewood, where he played all six of J.S. Bach's Suites for Solo Cello — the music part of the Bach Project — in one sitting before a large crowd on a beautiful Berkshire evening. He then lauded the Boston Symphony for encouraging new talent and introduced a young "Jimmy Taylor." Better known as James, Mr. Taylor, a Berkshire resident and advocate of the BSO and Tanglewood, came on stage to play an encore, accompanied by Mr. Ma on cello.

The cellist's appearance at the Common on Saturday was preceded earlier this summer by "Tanglewood in the city: Pittsfield edition," in which viewers watched a live concert from a short distance to the south on a large video screen. This is part of an outreach to Pittsfield that should continue in the months ahead. With the traditional summer season winding down at Tanglewood, the Linde Center, which opened on the grounds in June, will begin Tanglewood's first year-round Berkshire presence with a variety of programs that residents of the city and county should take advantage of.

Mr. Ma emphasizes that music, beyond its pleasantness to the ear, can provide a way to bring people together for the common good. This weekend, Berkshire County, joined major cities all over the globe in getting to see this in action.

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