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Music of the heart

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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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