Margaret Ward and Irish Times published an article about Ukrainian musicians at wartime.
At the Lviv Philharmonic, “they are keeping their regular summer series Virtuosos going despite the war. Tonight’s concert is called Prayer, appropriate in the circumstances as rumours swirl that the counter offensive is about to begin. Inside the orchestra tunes up, and the Italian-American conductor Raffaele Ponti appears to a rapturous reception, the audience clearly appreciating that he made the journey to Ukraine in spite of the risks.”
Raffaelle Ponti: “It seemed like the right thing to do, to show that it’s okay to be here, that it’s okay to make music here, that it’s okay to continue our lives. Working with this orchestra all week has been a real joy. The Ukrainian people have touched my heart, with all they’re going through in the war. We see it on TV but to actually be here and sense the rhythm and the feelings of the people…They play with such big hearts”.
The orchestra strikes up the opening bars of Finlandia, the great tone poem by Sibelius, written more than a century ago at a time of Russian cultural oppression. Not surprisingly it’s a favourite among the Lviv musicians, including violinist Solomia Onyskiv: “The people of Finland had some similar history with Russia, and this music has the same character and same spirit as we feel now. It’s very close to our souls to play Finlandia, to show that we care about our country and its independence.”
The orchestra has made a point of reaching out to the many soldiers undergoing rehabilitation in Lviv, inviting them to concerts and workshops. Twenty-year-old volunteer Dmytro lost his right arm, says, “I come to the concerts, it’s like part of my therapy. I like the sounds, they help me to feel comfortable, to relax. I don’t try to forget what happened. It’s my life experience. We have a war and we have to finish it.”
The war has touched the orchestra directly, with one of its musicians suffering an injury to his hand. “He’s unlikely to ever play again,” says Onyskiv. “But he is alive. A lot of musicians, artists, photographers, some of them people I know, went to the war, and some of them have died.” Her voice falters a little. “This is the price we are paying for the life of our country.”
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