Though he turns 60 on Oct. 7, superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma received an early birthday celebration Monday on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”
Surprisingly, Ma, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant, received not one but three performance spots on the CBS late-night series. That’s almost unprecedented for a classical-music artist. It’s hard to imagine even Lady Gaga getting that type of treatment.
Sitting in with “The Late Show” house band, Jon Batiste and Stay Human, Ma performed The Swan from Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals and Gershwin’s Prelude No. 1. Then Misty Copeland, who’s made headlines recently for becoming the first black principal with the American Ballet Theatre, joined the cellist as he played the Courante movement from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 2 while she danced.
Ma even received birthday accolades from guest Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who told him, “You raise the cultural level of the show by a magnitude of five.” To which Colbert responded, “He [Ma] sure classes up the joint.”
Between musical segments, Ma fist-bumped Colbert, got a “Happy Birthday” serenade and received a special gift: a “Late Show”-emblazoned rubber cap for his cello’s endpin. “That’s the best kind of protection you could ever give a cellist,” Ma said, laughing. When Colbert wheeled out a birthday cake, Ma went rogue and sliced the dessert with his bow — and then proceeded to lick the crumbs from the makeshift Cake-sicle. (If you missed the show Monday, watch it online here.)
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the Saipan Tribune offered the cellist a birthday sonnet (actually, two, but the first is a little racy). Here’s the G-rated one:
Yo, Ma Yo-Yo
more and more por favor
GO GO GO GO
take care of muscles sore
please Mister Yo-Yo Ma
keep it up serious and mellow
we thank your Ma and Pa
please do not stop bowing that cello
solo on J.S. Bach’s Cello Suites
and all along the desert Silk Road
African and Appalachian treats
Tan Dun’s Tigers and Dragons all explode
xie xie for taking all those different directions
looking forward to more musical resurrections
Head over to the CSO’s Facebook page to offer your own b-day wishes to Maestro Ma.