Spectators were seated between boxes of medicines, first aid kits and intravenous tubes. The orchestra was missing four men now fighting on the front lines of the war. A handful of guest singers who had fled the bombing and bloodshed took the stage with the choir.
The war in Ukraine has rocked the meticulous planning of the Lviv Philharmonic’s annual summer music festival for four decades. But for musicians and audiences, the show must go on.
Although the space — a Baroque, pastel-colored room in western Ukraine — became a coordination site for humanitarian supplies during the war, it has remained a home to musicians and choirs. Instead of playing uplifting music during the festival’s first performance, the orchestra decided to open this spring with Mozart’s Requiem.
The concert, which was performed Friday night, was a tribute to the Ukrainians lost in three months of war.
“This is now a place for medicine – for body and soul,” said Liliia Svystovych, a teacher in the audience. “We understand that a requiem is about mourning, that it is sad music. But it’s like a prayer. And a prayer is always a form of hope.”
About an hour before the concert started, air-raid sirens started blaring.
Iolanta Pryshlyak, the director of Lviv’s International Symphony Orchestra, prepared to postpone the concert until everything was clear. While waiting in a back room where doctors packed medical supplies, she took calls from volunteers bringing aid to the Ukraine-fought east.
Ms. Pryshlyak, 59, is now not only the conductor of the orchestra. Since the invasion began, she has also directed the flow of supplies passing through the theater on their way to the front lines of the war. It is her base of operations for both jobs.
She’d been up since 4 a.m. and she was tired: “I’m just running on autopilot.”
Still, she was looking forward to an evening full of music. “War makes your heart like a stone,” she said. “But music can soften the weather.”
Downstairs, the orchestra’s conductor, Volodymyr Syvokhip, donned a suit in his office while a baritone soloist sang arpeggios in a nearby room.
For weeks, performers had rehearsed between towers of humanitarian aid chests as volunteers and doctors organized supplies all around them. Sometimes the musicians helped the rescuers. And sometimes the medics stopped their work to listen to them play.
“We support each other in one way or another because of this,” Mr Syvokhip said with a smile.
When he took the stage, Mr. Syvokhip told the audience that while air-raid sirens were sounding in Lviv, a bomb in the eastern region of Kharkov had reduced a cultural center to rubble, and with it the local theater.
When the requiem ended, the members of the orchestra and their audience were in tears.
“The sound of those alarms and sirens combined in our heads with the conductor’s words, and we understood why musicians shouldn’t be silent,” said Natalia Dub, director of a local academy.
She’d taken as much care of her appearance this year as she had the summer festivals before, wearing red lipstick and a pearl necklace.
“We have to come here,” she said. “This is where we need to be the most.”