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(Photo credit: Jason Bell)

Yo-Yo Ma Performs Outside Russian Embassy in Protest


On Monday afternoon, Yo-Yo Ma brought his cello to the streets of D.C. and played by himself outside the tall fence of the Russian Embassy. Ma was next to a make-shift sign that read "Zelensky Way," which pays tribute to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy amidst the ongoing warfare.

Washington D.C.'s local news station WUSA9 reported that it was passing cyclist Ryan Stitt who spotted the cellist. Stitt filmed the video below and recalled that when acknowledged, Ma said, "Everyone has to do something."



Yo-Yo Ma was already in D.C. for a performance at The Kennedy Center with pianist Emmanuel Ax and violinist Leonidas Kavakos. Presented by the Washington Performing Arts, the all-Beethoven program was preceded by the Ukrainian National Anthem, which prompted a standing ovation from the audience. This concert was followed by one at New York's Carnegie Hall and has three more stops in Boston, Chicago, and Stony Brook.

The trio also just last week released their newest album, "Beethoven for Three," in which they play Beethoven's second and fifth symphonies arranged for trio.

Ma, Ax, and Kavakos Trio at D.C.'s Kennedy Center (PC: Amanda Sweet)


Although no official written statement has been made by Ma regarding the Russian attacks on Ukraine, he has made it his career's mission to use culture as a way to bring people together peacefully. In a piece written by him for Time Magazine back in 2020, the cellist writes:

"In 1948, seven years before I was born, the United Nations General Assembly met for the third time ever. The meeting was in Paris, just across the river from my father’s apartment; the memory of the German occupation was still fresh. In what must have been a moment of profound hope for the future, the new group came together and ratified a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, describing the world they wanted to build, defined by equality, opportunity, and safety for all.

I must have learned about the Declaration in some forgotten classroom, but it hit me again in a flash this summer thanks to the composer Max Richter and his collaborator Yulia Mahr, who layered a tapestry of music and images over the voice of Eleanor Roosevelt reading the Declaration in a piece called 'All Human Beings.'

We may have failed in so many ways to deliver on the promise of that document, but every generation has a chance — an obligation — to do better, to imagine and create a world that works for all of us."

More recently, Ma also went on to retweet the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres

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