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After receiving his second COVID-19 shot, Yo-Yo Ma staged an impromptu performance at Mass. clinic

In this image from video, Yo-Yo Ma performed during the Celebrating America event on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, following the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States.Associated Press

Yo-Yo Ma, the world-famous cellist, is known for transfixing audiences at some of the most venerated concert halls and events — including, more recently, President Biden’s inauguration ceremony, where he delivered a pre-recorded performance of “Amazing Grace.”

But on Saturday, Yo-Yo Ma settled for a smaller crowd — and much to the utter joy of those in his company.

After receiving his second coronavirus vaccine shot at Berkshire Community College, the Berkshire Eagle reported, Yo-Yo Ma — a part-time Berkshires resident — staged a spur-of-the-moment show for those who had also been inoculated.

The school posted a series of photos and videos of Yo-Yo Ma at the field house clinic in Pittsfield, where he sat masked and socially distanced away from others up against a wall.


He spent his time in observation by playing his cello for others waiting for their 15 minutes to pass. Those seated in folding chairs surrounding Yo-Yo Ma applauded as he shared his musical talents with them.

Richard Hall, of the Berkshire COVID-19 Vaccine Collaborative, told the Berkshire Eagle that Yo-Yo Ma put on the “very special” concert — which capped the day’s vaccination event — because he “wanted to give something back.”

State Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli praised Yo-Yo Ma for his performance at the vaccination site, describing the renowned musician as “always a classy act” in the Berkshires.

“Bringing hope and optimism through his beautiful music,” Pignatelli wrote on Twitter.

It was exactly a year ago — during the early aughts of the pandemic when fear and concern reigned — that Yo-Yo Ma shared the first of his #SongsOfComfort on Twitter.

He uploaded a video of himself playing a rendition of Dvořák’s “Going Home” and urged those online to “stay safe.”

“In these days of anxiety, I wanted to find a way to continue to share some of the music that gives me comfort,” Yo-Yo Ma wrote.


The cellist’s informal show for those at the clinic was not the first time he has delighted an unsuspecting audience during the pandemic, according to the Berkshire Eagle.

Alongside the classical pianist Emanuel Ax, Yo-Yo Ma played a series of surprise pop-up concerts for essential workers this past September, the paper reported.

Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.