Yo-Yo Ma
YMCG Artistic Director

Dear Friends,

Five years ago, with the help of my great friend Maestro Yu Long and many others, we began a journey together: an adventure in what is possible when we come together to create music, ask questions, and nurture our imaginations. Over the last months, I have been reflecting on five years of music and connection in Guangdong and some of the questions that have framed our time together:

– What is the interplay between content, communication, and reception in effective performance?
– How do we build a collective experience through individual voices?
– How can experimentation, improvisation, and collaboration help us understand the musician’s role in society?
– How can we harness creativity to navigate change and chart a new course?

These questions have never felt more present. I am saddened not to be with you in person this year, but I hope that over the course of your time together, you will revisit these themes and the lessons of Youth Music Culture Guangdong. And I hope, most of all, you will ask yourself this question: how can music—and culture—help us imagine and build a better future?

I’ll share two of my own answers. The first is something we have spoken about at length: culture can connect us to one another. Culture helps us to understand each other, strengthen our relationships, and make our communities and society more resilient. We have lived that power through exercises in collaborative improvisation, in performing chamber music, and by bringing music into the community here, in Guangdong.

Here’s a newer answer: culture also can connect us to the natural world, reminding us that we ourselves are part of nature and therefore have a shared responsibility to it. I hope you will hear this in the music we have selected for the opening and closing concerts. Listen to Holst and Dvořák sing of Jupiter and the Moon; hear Saint-Saëns, Respighi, and Beethoven as they consider the seemingly limitless diversity of the plants and animals that surround and include us. A great scientist once said to me that nature has the greatest imagination. This is music that gives voice to that imagination.

I hope that we can be together in person soon to make music, to explore new questions, and to let our imaginations run as free as nature’s.

With warmest wishes,

Yo-Yo Ma

16th January, 2022