Birds free to migrate!
Thursday night I was one of thousands who watched, mesmerized, as Yo-Yo Ma playing the six Bach Suites for solo cello in the Royal Albert Hall. After this two and a half hour marathon, he took the microphone to say that in the light of the terrible things happening in the world right now, he wanted to play one more little song, a Catalan song arranged for solo cello by the legendary Catalan cellist Pablo Casals (1876-1973). Not only did Casals revive public appreciation of the Bach Suites - he spent a significant part of his life in exile, in protest against the Franco regime in Spain, playing in protest at the plight of refugees around the world. This Song of the Birds has become a plea for freedom, said Yo-Yo, the freedom to live where you would like to live. What a beautiful and simple message in the language of music from one man on an otherwise empty stage.
Birds are free to migrate, singing to each other as they do. Are they trying to tell us something?
Yo-Yo Ma, watercolour 84 x 56cm, 1992. Birmingham Symphony Hall Collection
It's twenty-three years since I made this watercolour of Yo-Yo. Using the diagonal of the cello, this composition is based on triangles. Your gaze follows the dark tones down from the top right-hand corner to his face, listening. Then turns down the fingerboard where his fingers are delicately gamboling down towards his bowing action. It's all about balance.