The Current

This classical pianist is offering hospital patients virtual, private music recitals

Matthew Li is one of several musicians across the country lending their talents to offer a small reprieve during the COVID-19 pandemic by playing virtual recitals for those needing comfort.

'We all need something positive in the overwhelming, negative time, I would say,' said Matthew Li

Matthew Li performs Claude Debussy's Feux D'artifice

3 years ago
Duration 0:20
Vancouver-based musician Matthew Li is playing private recitals for hospital patients in order to offer some positivity during a 'negative' time.

Read story transcript

Connected via Skype, Vancouver musician Matthew Li played piano for a Hamilton, Ont., woman in palliative care.

Bach's Fugue in G minor was among his selections.

Li is one of several musicians across the country lending their talents to offer a small reprieve during the COVID-19 pandemic by playing virtual recitals for those needing comfort.

He spoke with The Current's Matt Galloway about why he began the private shows.

Here's part of that conversation.

How did you get involved in this and why did you want to be involved in something like this? 

This is actually an initiative started by a personal friend of mine, Adam Hardi from Toronto, and the whole goal of this project is to spread something positive and uplifting for patients in hospital. 

In this case, [the patient is] in palliative care, and this [music] is particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic time because we all need something positive in the overwhelming negative time, I would say. 

What do you know about her? What was your reaction to that piece of music? 

She was absolutely delighted. She really enjoyed the music. And it is my hope that more patients out there will get to enjoy this as this initiative takes off.

Matthew Li is a classically-trained pianist and music teacher in Vancouver. (Michelle Koebke)

You know about the power of music, but what do you see as what you can help bring to people's lives in this difficult time, and through these performances? 

What I notice about difficult times like this is that as things are taken away from us, we tend to pay more attention to things that we would have otherwise [taken] for granted during regular times. 

I find that people would notice things more — listen [to] or look at things differently. 

What I'm hoping to bring is, again, something positive and also maybe bring something more human to these patients and also to listeners. And maybe reach into their souls, somehow through music. 

You've been watching these [virtual] performances from around the world as people have been performing from their home? 

Yes, absolutely. 

What stood out for you? Is there one that you've loved that has done what you've said: that has connected us in some ways; that has reached into your soul? 

The one that I would say impacted me the most was the last live performance from the Berlin Philharmonic where they actually perform in a completely empty hall. 

It looks like it's a dress rehearsal — a large-scale dress rehearsal — but it's an actual performance just before the season was cancelled. That to me was very poignant and I was very deeply moved by that performance. 

And of course, there are many, many other groups and musicians who are doing it from their home. 

I've seen one where they actually put on excerpts of Bach's St. Matthew Passion with instrumentalists and different choir members all singing through their webcam, and they put it together almost like a Zoom meeting. 

That — I think — is the silver lining from this period; that people are actually trying harder to be more creative. And also people are trying harder to stay connected.

Written by Jason Vermes. Produced by Emily Rendell-Watson.


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