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Beethoven 250: Global Ode to Joy

O friend, my heart has tired of such darkness. Now it vies for joy.

Tracy K. Smith

The Task

Transform conductor Marin Alsop’s original vision to celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday with live performances around the world into a virtual experience at the height of the pandemic.

Our Approach

We teamed up with Google, YouTube, and musicians and cultural partners around the world to create the Global Ode to Joy — a collaborative video project that  asked people to  submit videos that answered the prompt: what brings joy?


We received video submissions from thousands of people in over 70 countries that formed the basis of a grand finale video set to the “Ode to Joy” chorus sung by a 1000-voice global choir with new lyrics from poet Tracy K. Smith. The finale was premiered live on Google Arts & Culture’s YouTube channel with an introduction by the head of the German government (Bundestag).



In the darkest days of the pandemic––with performances canceled, venues shuttered, and the future paused––21C Media Group teamed up with artists and cultural institutions around the world to ask, “What brings us joy?”

The Global Ode to Joy project was originally conceived by conductor Marin Alsop as an international celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday. Alsop envisioned the composer’s Symphony No. 9, including its famous “Ode to Joy” chorus, traveling across six continents, with local poets contributing their translation of the original text at each destination. A pandemic enforced cancellation prompted us to seek a new journey–– from large-scale, in-person events to an open, inclusive digital experience, from despair and uncertainty into joy

To achieve this goal, 21C Media Group partnered with Google, Beethoven-Haus Bonn, YouTube, and musicians and institutions across the world to create the Global Ode to Joy project, evolving Alsop’s original vision into a massive virtual tribute to the composer on his birthday. With help from Lang Lang, Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma,  the Stay At Home Choir, and many more, we asked the public to upload videos showing how they were finding joy. The #GlobalOdetoJoy project received thousands of submissions, from well-known artists and cultural institutions, to everyday enthusiasts.

On Beethoven’s 250th birthday, December 16, 2020, the president of  the German Bundestag, Wolfgang Schäuble, introduced a grand finale video featuring the best of these submissions. The crowdsourced video premiered on Google Arts & Culture’s YouTube page, with the “Ode to Joy” chorus set to new lyrics from Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Tracy K. Smith, sung by a 1000-voice global choir. This large-scale virtual collaboration, spearheaded by 21C Media Group, united music-lovers in joy at a time when it was needed more than ever.

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