The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is holding a benefit concert Thursday evening to support Ukraine and its citizens in the wake of the ongoing war with Russia.
“This program allows us to reflect on the universal tragedy we find ourselves in today,” says Conductor Jonathon Heyward, who joins the BSO from the German Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie, where he serves as chief conductor.
Heyward made his debut at the BSO last month. He kicked off a U.S. tour on the East Coast with three concerts March 11-13.
The Ukrainian benefit concert will take place at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 21. It will encourage communal reflection through music, with orchestral pieces that honor the Ukrainian people and their culture.
The Ukrainian conflict with neighbor Russia—dating back to the Russo-Ukrainian War in 2014—was reignited with an invasion of Ukraine authorized by Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 24, 2022.
“These works elicit feelings of outrage, sadness over the death of innocents, love of homeland, devout heroism and the quintessential pride of the Ukrainian people,” Heyward explains in a news release.
He will lead the orchestra in performing selections including the Ukranian national anthem, Ukrainian composer Valentyn Silvestrov’s “Hymn – 2001″ and a poem by Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko.
All proceeds will be donated to the International Rescue Committee.
The weight of the Ukrainian occupation hits close to home for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The namesake of its symphony hall, Joseph Meyerhoff, emigrated from Ukraine to Baltimore as a young child, according to the BSO.
BSO Senior Vice President and Chief Advancement Officer Allison Burr-Livingstone says the Meyerhoff family continues to be a vital part of the BSO family today.
“In the world’s most inhumane and tragic moments, we turn to the arts for solace,” she says. “We’re proud to not only financially support important humanitarian relief through the International Rescue Committee but also provide an important space for communal reflection to our Baltimore community.”
In partnership with the BSO, the Creative Alliance is presenting post-concert performances curated by Joel Michael-Schwartz. The Baltimore-based mandolinist of Ukrainian Jewish descent also curated the Creative Alliance’s “Baltimore Musicians’ Benefit Concert for Ukraine” in March.
“Like most people of my background, my entire European family died in either the pogroms or the Holocaust,” Michael-Schwartz says. “When troops started pouring over the border into Ukraine, I felt like I was watching the stories I grew up with play out before my eyes. I knew I had to do something, and what I wanted most was to help people get out of the conflict so that no one from Ukraine or anywhere else has to tell their children, the way my family did, why their family is so small.”
He adds, “It has been so amazing to see so many masters from across the musical community in Baltimore come together for this–to support Ukraine and the amazing people at the IRC.”
Tickets for the April 21 concert start at $10 but guests can add to that amount, with all proceeds going to the International Rescue Committee. Purchase tickets at my.bsomusic.org/Ukraine.
The Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall will be lit in the Ukrainian yellow and blue in honor of the country. Photos and video of the performances are permitted.
“Through the power of music, we stand in solidarity with Ukraine and hope for a more harmonious and peaceful world,” Heyward says.