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Music of the heart

Filmmaker Morgan Neville, whose 2013 music documentary 20 Feet from Stardom won the Oscar as Best Documentary Feature, brings the same insight and enthusiasm to The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, a self-explanatory chronicle of the classical-music “super group” formed by the esteemed cellist.

The members of the Ensemble hail from all corners of the globe, and for some, their musical abilities were a way to escape countries rife with strife. The scenes where they tell their stories are usually accompanied by their own playing, which adds a further emotional tone to the proceedings. Through all the tumult and tragedy, their beacon has always been their music.

In light of Sept. 11, 2001 and subsequent terrorist acts – which, unfortunately, continue to the present day – the members of the Silk Road Ensemble act as ambassadors of peace and harmony, sharing their love of music with audiences – although some tour dates have to be canceled due to security concerns.

For the most part, Neville avoids overemphasizing the message, and the film moves along at a nice pace. There are also some humorous moments, including light-hearted banter behind the scenes, as well as a priceless clip of Ma appearing on “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood”.

From beginning to end, however, The Music of Strangers is a sumptuous feast for music lovers, and the rehearsal and concert scenes are well-nigh irresistible. The Ensemble doesn’t just relegate itself to playing the classics. Classical musicians like to jam, too! !

The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble opens Friday

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