With the holidays approaching, there are different pieces of music that I habitually gravitate towards that have become traditions for me. My sister-in-law has given me several CD's of holiday mixes over the years, too, and they're fabulous--very eclectic mixes that just make me happy.
But some years ago, I was very fortunate to have the chance to hear Yo Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin in concert at North Carolina State University, and then, I got to see Bobby again a few years later, at the University of North Carolina. One of the pieces I heard these two collaborate on is "Ave Maria."
If you've ever had the opportunity to see McFerrin, you'll know what I mean when I say that he is incredibly talented, but he's just the essence of cool, too. No one else does what Bobby does: He often sings, a cappella,--but he doesn't sing the traditional melody itself; rather, he sings the instrumental portion of the piece he's presenting to you. In this instance, these two reversed the normal way of things: Yo Yo Ma played on his cello, what is traditionally the melody, and Bobby sang the instrumental portion of it: in other words, his voice becomes the cello, or the violin, or the flute, etc. His voice is the instrument.
A Bobby McFerrin concert always involves audience participation, as you'll see in this clip below. I was in an audience that sang Ave Maria right along with his solo accompaniment, and, like the rest of the audience, I don't even really know Ave Maria, to sing it on my own, but our combined efforts sounded beautiful under his tutelage. He divided us, with waving hands, into broad, sweeping sections, assigning each section a task, on the spot, and we obediently went right along with his direction. All I can say is: it was magical to be a part of it!
I couldn't find a good YouTube version of Yo Yo Ma/McFerrin together, but I am including one of McFerrin with a rapt audience. I wish the sound in this clip was better, because in concert, you hear McFerrin more clearly, but you get a pretty good idea of what he does, just the same.
So, if you've never heard Bobby do his thing, I really hope you take a few minutes to see him in action. And if you ever get a chance to hear him in person, DO IT! You will not regret it, trust me.