Cello is one of the friendliest-sounding instruments, and Ma is one of the friendliest-looking people, and the album concept is a musical party inspired by the Christmas season. Ma invited many old and new musical friends to bring favorite Christmas or Christmas-related music and played in small groupings with them. Diana Krall, Alison Krauss, Natalie MacMaster, James Taylor, Dave Brubeck, Edgar Meyer, Renee Fleming, Chris Botti, Chris Thile and on and on. The album radiates warmth.
Oh, and if that isn’t friendly enough for you, Yo yo has invited you to respond to the album by creating and sharing a variation on the album’s recurring theme melody, Dona Nobis Pacem, if you wish, collaborating with him virtually by using his counter-melody, based on source files found at http://www.indabamusic.com/contests/show/yo-yomacontest . Participants can share the recording at the Indaba Music website and win a chance to record a duet with Yo Yo Ma.
Getting back to the album, we discovered that you have to play it on a good stereo. Our first listen was disappointing, through the computer speakers out in Scott’s shop. The next day we decided to give it another try in the house, on our good stereo. It was like listening to a different album! Enormous cello sound, big round beautiful tones on all the instruments. It wants to be turned up and enjoyed. And because it is only loosely Christmas themed, I don’t think we’ll feel like we’re done with it when January comes.