In March, amid the developing pandemic, Yo-Yo Ma initiated a collaborative online movement called #SongsOfComfort: he encouraged people to create and share music from their home, and use the #SongsOfComfort hashtag on social media platforms to showcase their creations.

As we turn to music for comfort more than ever, we asked our musicians of our orchestra and choir what pieces and songs they find most soothing. The result is Songs of Comfort, a four-hour playlist on Spotify. Ranging from classical, to folk, to modern pop, we hope this curated playlist brings you comfort, too. 

The first three tracks were selected by our Choir Director, Ivars Taurins. We asked him to provide some thoughts on his selections, to offer our listeners some context and a personal connection to his choices.

Track 1: Morten Lauridsen: Nocturne no.3 “Sure on this shining night” (The Singers, with Morten Lauridsen, piano)
I discovered this piece when I was choosing repertoire for the National Youth Choir, which I was invited to work with and direct in the summer of 2012, including a concert tour in Ontario and Quebec.
I was already familiar with some of Lauridsen’s other works, including his magical setting of “O Magnum Mysterium”, but this piece, based on a poem by James Agee (1909-1955) written during the Great Depression, struck a chord in me, and I knew I needed to share it with the young, fresh minds and voices of the members of the NYC. We performed it at the end of every concert on that tour, and the final concert in Ottawa, after which everyone said their farewells and dispersed back to their own part of Canada, was a very moving experience. 
My favourite recording of it is unfortunately unavailable on Spotify: it’s performed by Polyphony under the direction of Stephen Layton on an album of Lauridsen’s choral works called ‘Nocturne’, available on iTunes here: Lauridsen: Nocturnes & Other Choral Work. This other interpretation has equal finesse and depth of feeling, and is accompanied by the composer himself.
Agee’s poem is below:
Sure on this shining night
James Agee
Sure on this shining night
Of starmade shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.
The late year lies down the north.
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.
Hearts all whole.
Sure on this shining night
I weep for wonder
Wand’ring far alone
Of shadows on the stars.
Track 2: Benjamin Britten: "O Waly, Waly”  (Anthony Rolfe Johnson, with Graham Johnson, piano) 
The incomparable Anthony Rolfe Johnson, whose career and life were sadly cut short by the onset of Alzheimer’s, has left us with an immeasurably rich gift of his singing, documented through his many recordings. I vividly recall hearing him live, when Charlotte and I were studying in Holland in 1979-1980, singing the role of Lensky in Eugene Onegin, and also in a performance of the Berlioz Requiem – just six years into his professional career as a singer at age 33! With a vast repertoire ranging from Bach to Britten – from oratorio, to opera, to lieder  – he seemed to be at home in any style or period of music, his mellifluous voice enrobing the music and texts with a unique lustre.
I offer an example of his plangent singing of Britten’s arrangement of “O Waly, Waly” from a 1996 live concert recording at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Brussels.  
Track 3: Connie Kaldor: "I Have You" from Lullaby Berceuse: A Warm Prairie Night
This song, sung by Canadian singer-songwriter Connie Kaldor, was on a favourite cd we played for our two daughters at bedtime when they were small. I love the words, and her singing is so beautifully soothing in its repetitions that I often would drift off into a doze as it lulled our daughters to sleep.  
Listen to our Songs of Comfort playlist on Spotify here. Do you follow us on Spotify yet? If not, visit our profile here.