Five years ago, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Kathryn Stott created an album called “Songs from the Arc of Life,” which charted an imagined lifetime through song and its unique way of storytelling. It had long been their wish to explore this medium further, but they could never have imagined that the catalyst would be a pandemic that fundamentally rearranged our ways of living. “Songs of Comfort and Hope” was conceived in April 2020 when people everywhere were entering a dramatic new world, one in which we have been separated from our loved ones and many filled with fear and isolation. Featuring twenty one new recordings, ranging from fresh arrangements of traditional folk tunes, pop songs, and jazz standards to mainstays from the western classical repertoire, the songs on the album bring a sense of community, identity, and purpose, crossing boundaries and binding us together in thanks, consolation, and encouragement. This is music that tells stories, that marks occasions private and public, that gives voice to celebrations, remembrances, and all of life’s mysteries. They are songs that pay tribute to champions of social justice like Paul Robeson and Violeta Parra and to the troubadours of our joy, imagination, and sorrow like Wu Tong, Francis Poulenc, and Benjamin Britten. They are creations that, as Felix Mendelssohn once wrote, express thoughts that are “not too indefinite to be put into words, but on the contrary, too definite.” Yo-Yo Ma and Kathryn Stott hope that the familiarity and reinvention contained in this music offers everyone some comfort and hope.