Local musicians and cultural groups pool various resources for concerts to benefit Ukraine


CLEVELAND, Ohio — They couldn’t take up arms, so they took violins and cellos. They couldn’t make it to Eastern Europe, so they planned a gig here in Cleveland.

Thus was born “Sonyashnyk” (“Sunflower”), a musical benefit for the Ukrainian people. Out of a deep need to do something, anything, has blossomed a great unexpected event at the Cleveland Museum of Art that now seems poised to do more good than anyone could have imagined.

“We felt passionate about it, right from the start,” said Ralitsa Georgieva, one of the event’s main organizers and pianist from the Cleveland Institute of Music.

“As musicians, we thought we could do something that relates to what we do for a living. It quickly turned into something just as awesome. Everyone we asked was willing to step in and help. They said, ‘Yes, we are here.’ There was no need to talk any further.

This exchange must have taken place several times. Between them, Georgieva, along with pianist Lorenzo Salvagni and Narcisz Fejes, a professor at Case Western Reserve University, called on a large number of friends and members of Apollo’s Fire, the Cleveland Orchestra and Piano Cleveland.

They also found colleagues from CIM, helpful documents from the Cleveland Ukrainian Museum-Archive, and a host of volunteer Ukrainian folk dancers and singers. In an almost unbelievable stroke of luck, they even landed pianist Emanuel Ax, the Cleveland Orchestra’s next guest, who just happens to be Ukrainian.

The event is ticketed and all proceeds will be shared by three humanitarian organizations selected for their ability to deliver food, medical equipment and other aid directly to Ukraine: Cleveland Maidan Associationthe Ukrainian Crisis Relief Fundand World Central Cuisine.

“We want the city to come together in solidarity for this important cause that has real consequences for all of our lives,” Fejes said. “These groups have relationships on the ground. They are able to enter cities that have been beaten.

Pianist Emanuel Ax, seen here with the Cleveland Orchestra and Music Director Franz Welser-Most, is one of several featured artists on “Sonyashnyk” (“Sunflower”), a musical benefit for Ukraine. Roger Mastroianni

As Fejes suggests, there is a personal dimension to “Sonyashnyk”. The people she and her colleagues are trying to help are not faceless abstractions in the news. In some cases, these are people with direct ties to northeast Ohio, including friends or former students and their families.

That’s certainly true for pianist and “Sonyashnyk” participant Yaron Kohlberg, president of Piano Cleveland, the organization that presents the Cleveland International Piano Competition. He said he knows several former candidates and laureates “directly affected” by the war in Ukraine.

“Our organization is dedicated to supporting musicians around the world…[and] we are honored to be part of this benefit concert,” he said.

That’s not all. Because the three organizers come from European nations that have experienced the effects of war – Bulgaria, Hungary and Italy – “Sonyashnyk” is for them an act of commiseration, a gesture not only of charity but of compassion. Between them and the horrors of war there is only a degree or two of separation.

“We all have ties,” Fejes explained. “We are very sensitive and very understanding when we see these stories. We understand the consequences of this war and sympathize with the trauma they will have to endure. »

Distracted, perhaps, by the importance of the concert for them, the organizers of “Sonyashnyk” did not give much thought to the amount of money they would like to collect. Salvagni only said that with so many musical luminaries on board he was looking at a “significant” amount.

“I hope people will respond with generosity,” he said. “We really have to give as much as we can.”

It turns out that “Sonyashnyk” isn’t the only musical event that will soon take place on behalf of Ukraine in Greater Cleveland. At 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 10, Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood will host the Tischler Klezmer Orchestra and several guests for a Ukrainian benefit concert.

Tickets start at $20 and proceeds will go to HIAS (the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) and the International Rescue Committee. For more information, visit tkoukrainebenefitconcert.com.

“Our goal is to show our solidarity with Ukraine and support ongoing relief efforts by performing the music and songs that helped previous generations of Ukrainians and Eastern European Jews survive the wars and upheavals of their time,” said Moss Stanley, director of the Tischler Klezmer Orchestra. .


Sonyashnyk (“Sunflower”)

What: A musical advantage for Ukraine

When: 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 8.

Or: Gartner Auditorium, Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Blvd., Cleveland.

Tickets: $50 and up. Go to Eventbrite.com.


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