It wasn’t a typical chorus on the Carnegie Hall stage: acclaimed pianist Evgeny Kissin read from a sheet of paper as he sang Leonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere” in a gathering with actor Richard Gere, mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard and Broadway star Adrienne Warren.
But there they were: four members of the entire troupe who took part in Monday night’s benefit concert in support of Ukraine, an array of star vocals onstage as members of New York’s Ukrainian choir Dumka poured in from the aisles.
†Hold my hand and I’ll take you there,” they sang. “In one way or another. One day. Somewhere.”
It was one such evening at Carnegie Hall, when artists from many disciplines and the institution itself came together to speak out against the Russian invasion of Ukraine and show solidarity with the victims.
The Ukrainian Choir Dumka, an amateur ensemble specializing in secular and sacred music from Ukraine, opened the concert with the Ukrainian national anthem. Diplomats from home and abroad thanked and spoke about the power of the arts in times of crisis. In between songs, mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves paused and choked as she spoke of her husband, a doctor, who was present the day after his return from Ukraine, where he had helped provide medical care.
And there was a message from the first lady of Ukraine.
“Music heals and inspires, music gives hope and confidence,” said the first lady, Olena Zelenska, in a pre-recorded video message played early in the program. “Today’s event reminds us that Ukraine is an integral part of world culture.”
“Music on this stage is a separate major win,” she added. “It is a sign of unity of our cultures against the chaos and sadness of war. And all of you who are in this room today are our effective and true allies in this cultural battle.”
The evening featured more than a dozen performers and ensembles. There were performances by jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, violinist Midori, singer Michael Feinstein, soprano Angel Blue and Broadway singer Jessica Vosk. Mr. Kissin appeared towards the end of the program – first with violinist Itzhak Perlman to play John Williams’ Theme from “Schindler’s List” and then to play Chopin’s Scherzo No. 2 alone.
In an interview with DailyExpertNews prior to the concert, Mr. Kissin said playing in the benefit “felt so natural to me that I can’t even call it a decision.”
“Unfortunately, I’m too old and not qualified to pick up a gun and go fight in Ukraine, so I’m doing everything I can: sending money and participating in concerts for Ukraine,” he said. “As a Jew born and raised in Russia, because I was one of the greatest victims of Russian xenophobia, I have always felt solidarity with all its other victims, including the Ukrainians.”
How the war in Ukraine affects the cultural world
Monday’s benefit represented Carnegie’s latest effort to use his platform to publicly support Ukraine. This season, Carnegie Hall had initially intended to highlight the work of Valery Gergiev, the Russian conductor who is a prominent supporter of Russia’s President Vladimir V. Putin, who planned to put on a series of concerts in the hall featuring both the Vienna Philharmonic as the Vienna Philharmonic. and the Mariinsky Orchestra. But those commitments were called off after Russia invaded Ukraine and became one of the first cultural institutions to fire performers with strong ties to Putin.
Carnegie plans to host the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine next season.
Several similar benefits to Ukraine have been held by New York art groups. In March, the Metropolitan Opera gave a concert including the Ukrainian national anthem and a piece by the Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov. The Met has also helped organize what is known as the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra for a tour scheduled for this summer.
The New York Philharmonic plans to honor the people of Ukraine at its upcoming Memorial Day concert and to raise money for the International Rescue Committee.
Carnegie Hall has said proceeds from Monday’s concert will go to Direct Relief, a humanitarian aid organization that supports relief efforts in Ukraine.
When the concert ended with the complete company finale, a man in the middle of the parquet could hardly contain his enthusiasm and warm feelings. Before the members of the Ukrainian choir could walk back down the aisle, he rose from his seat and reached out to grab a choir member on the shoulder as a gesture of appreciation.