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'For Ukraine': Miller Symphony Hall Announces Benefit Concert for Humanitarian Relief | WDIY Local News

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Allentown Symphony Association

An upcoming concert in Allentown aims to raise funds for humanitarian relief in Ukraine amid the ongoing Russian invasion.

Miller Symphony Hall and The Allentown Band will present “For Ukraine: A Concert of Remembrance and Hope,” on Aug. 20 at 3 p.m. at Miller Symphony Hall.

The date closely aligns with Ukrainian Independence Day on Aug. 24.

According to Allentown Band conductor Ronald Demkee, the program will open with two newly-transcribed pieces by the Ukrainian composer Mykola Lysenko: “A Prayer for Ukraine” and the “Taras Bulba Overture” an opera traditionally performed in the Kyiv Opera House at the end of each operatic season.

The centerpiece will be guest conductor Johan de Meij’s Symphony No. 4 “Symphony of Songs,” which will feature mezzo soprano soloist Patricia Risley and the Bel Canto Youth Chorus of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem.

Demkee said de Meij’s symphony is “based on the writings of Frederich Ruckert, Heinrich Heine, and Hugo von Hofmannstal,” and that the piece, “reflects the theme of the concert, which is that of loss and hope.”

The program will also include a video greeting from Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova.

Other performances include Jean Sibelius’ “Finlandia,” described as a “tone poem depicting the resilience a people resisting the oppression of a foreign power.”.

Two original pieces by two local composers will also be featured. “A Plea for Ukraine,” by Ronald DeGrandis, is described as “reflecting optimism for a reasonable conclusion as well as hope for a future with no conflict.”

The second piece, “A Tribute to Ukraine” by Lawrence Kursar.is said to express support and hope for the Ukrainian people.

These pieces are featured alongside:

  • The Great Gate of Kyiv from "Pictures at an Exhibition" by Modest Mussorgsky, “expressing the majesty of Kyiv.”
  • Symphony No. 3 - 6th Movement by Gustav Mahler, “expressing introspection, reflection, aspiration and resilience.”
  • Symphony No. 5 - 4th Movement by Ludwig van Beethoven, “expressing hope, triumph, and victory.”

The concluding piece will be the national anthem of Ukraine, composed by Mykhailo Verbytskyi and Pavlo Chubynskyi.

Demkee said that by having new compositions, “juxtaposed with familiar classic favorites by Beethoven, Mussorgsky, and Mahler, I am confident the listener is in for a musical treat.”

Tickets for the concert range in price from $15 to $45, and are for sale on the Miller Symphony Hall website.

Net proceeds from the concert will go directly toward helping the Ukrainian people through the official website of Ukraine.

“As always, the power of music to connect and inspire us will be shared by everyone who attends and supports this outreach to those in need,” the Allentown Symphony Association said in a release.

In a statement, Allentown Symphony and Miller Symphony Hall Executive Director Al Jacobsen credited Demkee and the Allentown Band for presenting the idea of the concert, saying that they, “were moved by the idea.”

“As the atrocities in Ukraine continue, we will speak through music and raise funds to support those who need it most in this war,” he said.

Miller Symphony Hall encourages people who are unable to attend, but still wish to support the relief effort, to donate through the same website.

(Original air-date: 7/27/23)

Sarit "Siri" Laschinsky was WDIY's News and Public Affairs Director until 2023.