UN Secretary-General drops by on music workshop featuring refugees and cellist Yo-Yo Ma
UN Secretary-General António Guterres dropped by on Monday to listen to a music workshop in Vienna that featured refugees and world famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Guterres was in town to mark the 40th anniversary of the Vienna International Centre, which is home to several UN agencies.
“Is it really him? I didn’t know he was coming,” said Khalid Hussein, 21, a refugee from Somalia as Guterres arrived with the workshop in full swing. “I am very excited to see him.”
Guterres said music is crucial as a symbol of the UN’s values.
“Music is a universal language. Music brings us together. Music is a symbol of peace. But at the same time music represents diversity … And that diversity is an enormous richness,” he said.
Eighty people including 10 refugees with ages ranging from six to 60 participated in the workshop with Ma, who has won 19 Grammy awards. They prepared an old song from Spain’s Andalusia region by first dividing the mixed-ability participants into two groups and getting them to learn different rhythms.
"Music is a universal language. Music brings us together."
“This exercise symbolises what the UN does. Two groups will do one thing together that before they were doing separately,” said Ma, who is on a two-year tour playing a programme of six Bach suites in 36 locations across six continents.
Noor Albaradan, 18, a refugee from Syria, was happy to see the Chinese-American cellist. “I am a big fan of Yo-Yo Ma,” he said. “I actually know him from a movie called ‘If I Stay’. In the movie, the characters’s first date is to a Yo-Yo Ma concert. After seeing that, I kept listening to his music day and night.”
The workshop took place far from Vienna’s glittering concert halls at Brunnenpassage, a cultural centre near a bustling market in the city’s multi-ethnic 16th district.