You have to love this country. Our bit of Florida - and not just our bit - is a useful place to be if you like classical music. It's common for renowned orchestras from chillier climes to gravitate here during the winter months. We went to a performance of an excellent Polish orchestra in nearby Sarasota which will this winter also be welcoming the English Chamber Orchestra and the Buffalo Philharmonic among others - all glad to get out of the cold. But last week was special. Here in our snazzy High School Performing Arts Center (sic) we, in little old Venice, were privileged to encounter, for one night only, the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine.
"We've got to get to this", hubby exclaimed and snared us a couple of tickets. As expected, the event was soon sold out - they urged us to arrive early if we wanted to have a hope of parking. The conductor, Theodore Kuchar, made a short speech. They'd arrived in the US six days previously and this was their sixth concert. There were going to be forty concerts in the US altogether. Forty! And they played their hearts out as if this was the only one. Dvorak's From the New World was particularly poignant. Everyone of them, the conductor said, had families, parents, siblings, children, in Ukraine, some of them fighting. They were doing their own sort of fighting.
They didn't need to work much on hearts and minds here in Venice. They already had our hearts. There's a big expat Ukrainian community nearby, with two Ukrainian churches and right at the start of the conflict, a giant truck appeared in the library car park collecting clothes, blankets, medicines, anything that might help. An endless queue of cars edged its way round the car park, people handing over bundles and bags, people shouting "good luck!" So many wanted to do something, however small.
The audience at the concert stood and cheered and shouted "bravo", several waving Ukrainian flags, one girl wrapped in a giant one. The back row of the orchestra unfurled their own flag. It was heartwarming and unforgettable.
Wonderful, hubby said, but they need more than cheers.
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