Annan marked the day by ringing — for his last time as UN Secretary-General — the Peace Bell in the UN's Japanese garden. Ma spoke briefly and performed the Partita for solo cello by Turkish composer Ahmed Adnan Saygun.
UN Messengers for Peace are, in the words of the UN News Service, "widely recognized talents in the field of arts, literature, music and sports who have agreed to help focus worldwide attention on the work of the UN."
Ma himself is the very model of a modern internationalist, having been born in France to Chinese parents and educated in the United States, where he now makes his home. Both the cellist himself and his musical interests are famously restless: in addition to his worldwide travels to perform the standard classical repertoire, he has taken a special interest in recent years in the music of the nations along the ancient Silk Road from China through central Asia to the edges of Europe. His Silk Road Ensemble, which brings together musicians from places as diverse as Iran, Turkey, India, China and the former republics of the Soviet Union, is now one of his most famous projects.