Out of all the wonderful Ukraine benefit events going on, Concert in Solidarity with Ukraine caught my attention when stellar musicians I follow on social media, Inna Faliks and Myroslava Khomik both posted the flyer on Instagram. I had to learn more.

Concert in Solidarity with Ukraine featured on Pastimes for a Lifetime blog

From them I was graciously introduced to the mastermind behind the benefit concert, Patrick Scott. He is the Artistic & Executive Director for Jacaranda Music (series of classical music adventures). He and philanthropist Abby Sher conceived the concert, curated the music, and recruited the two actors. Phew!

LRW: Where may our readers reserve their free tickets to this stellar event on Sunday, May 1 at 6:30 PM at the gorgeous Robert Frost Auditorium in Culver City?

PS: You may reserve tickets here.

LRW: Thank you. I understand the partners of this benefit are:
Jacaranda Music
Wende Museum of the Cold War
Culver City Forward
Culver City Unified School District
Classical Underground, Director & Artist Laureate of Culver City Alexey Steele
Why were these organizations chosen over others?

PS: Jacaranda Music and Wende collaborated in 2018 to launch Music at the Wende series established by Abby Sher. Jacaranda Music’s Vice chair is former Culver City mayor Thomas Small, who is now President and CEO of Culver City Forward. As a former Culver City Arts Commissioner, Small initiated the Artist Laureate honor. The first such honoree is painter, and founder of Classical Underground, Alexey Steele. His organization became a liberating meeting place of Ukrainian and Russian artists of all kinds to hear classical musicians in his warehouse studio.

LRW: I’ve attended several of Alexey Steel’s concerts in his warehouse studio over the years! Thank you for the backstory. Jacaranda Music has a mighty creative team indeed. How did you decide on the Frost Auditorium in Culver City for your venue?

PS: It is a spectacular and historically significant building recently given a new hi-tech life by the Culver City-based architectural firm Hodgetts & Fung. The Robert Frost Auditorium has 1200-seats and an appealing thrust stage. Culver City Unified School District donated it on the condition that the event would be free to enter. They have a magnificent 9-foot Steinway.

LRW: Wow! I’m excited to see this venue and hear that 9-foot Steinway. I’m looking forward to hearing musicians, pianist Inna Faliks, violinist Myroslava Khomik, pianist Steven Vanhauwaert, and cellist Antonio Lysy. I understand Inna and Myroslava hail from Ukraine. How did you decide on the other musicians? Were others considered?

PS: Inna is from Odessa. Mira is from Kiev. Antonio’s father was Ukrainian, his mother Italian. They met in Argentina where there was a large contingent of Ukrainian refugees. Antonio was born in Argentina. Steven was born in Belgium, so I think of him as our representative from the Capital of the EU. The Lyris Quartet has been the resident string ensemble of Jacaranda Music since 2011. They just celebrated ten years with three 911 quartets performed on the 20th anniversary of that tragic day.

I have known or worked will all the artists for a long time. They told me what music they could prepare as a donation. It took several weeks of discussion and discovery to settle on a program with enough Ukrainian music in it. Steven was willing to learn Valentin Silvestrov’s achingly beautiful solo The Messenger as a gift to Jacaranda and in support of this critical cause.

LRW: What a wonderful connection you’ve developed over the years with these marvelous musicians. I hope my readers will want to learn more about them, their concerts and recordings. That’s very gracious of Steven. I’m not familiar with this composer or piece and look forward to the introduction. What music and composers have been selected for the concert? Why them?

PS: The program needed to be a well-curated presentation of Ukrainian classical music with some Russian and Polish music to create a powerful musical panorama dating back to 1874 and forward to 2005. Nearly last on the program but oldest is The Great Gate of Kiev by Modest Mussorgsky in the original 1874 piano version.

Reinhold Gliere’s Berceuse is a 1909 violin & cello lullaby for children who are now displaced and in need of our support.

Serge Prokofiev was born and first studied music in Ukraine with a tragic end in Moscow. Dmitri Shostakovich was a consistent champion of Jews and suffered greatly under the thumb of Joseph Stalin. Their two pieces on the program – a lively colorful string quartet and a poignant cello sonata movement – were composed in the early 1930s.

As the collapse of the Soviet Union was formalized in 1991, Polish composer Henryk Gorecki responded with an outpouring of sorrow shaped into a glistening song for string quartet. The most recent piece, a piano solo, was composed for Inna in 2005 by her childhood teacher who is a very sophisticated composer, now living in Israel.

Opening and closing the program is a rhapsodic Ukrainian piece called Melody by Miroslav Skoryk from the 1978 film The High Mountain Pass steeped in National feeling. The Jacaranda Youth Orchestra comprised of the hardest working high school student string players from CCUSD, Colburn School Youth Orchestra, and Harvard Westlake Camerata Strings and Symphony Orchestra will perform Melody and the Ukrainian National Anthem.

LRW: What a massive and perfect program for this event. I believe there will be poetry along with music at the benefit performance. Which poets and poems will be read? Will they be read by actors Alex Feldman and Cástulo Guerra?

PS: Actor Alex Feldman (The Americans) was born in Kiev but moved to New York when he was ten in the wake of the Chernobyl catastrophe. Alex is our multilingual emcee. Cástulo Guerra (The Usual Suspects) is a formidable Shakespearean from Argentina. He will recite Ukrainian’s most famous poem The Testament (1845) by Taras Shevchenko. Later in the evening he will recite Headphones (2019) by Serhiy Zhadan. The first poem is prophetic, the second poem is a prescient vision of today.

LRW: Ah, Fellow poetry lovers will be in for a treat. Will fine art also be on display perhaps in the lobby? Any pieces being sold with donations or portions going to the charity? If so, who may I ask are the artists?

PS: Three curators: Alexey Steele, Joes Segal, Chief Curator of the Wende Museum, and Alisa Lozhkina of UCLA have put together a survey of significant Ukrainian art to be rear-projected on a large screen throughout the event. Political posters will be displayed in the lobby cases.

LRW: Perfect marriage of visual arts with music and poetry. Approximately how many attendees are expected?

PS: Seating capacity is 1200. The reservations are nearly doubling each day. If the momentum keeps up, we may be near full. Hopefully, the notorious no-show factor for free events will be much reduced by the passion we are feeling in the community for this cause.

LRW: Good to know. Indeed. My seat is reserved and I will be there. How are you getting the word out? I found out from Instagram posts by Inna Faliks and Myroslava Khomik as well as an email from Alexey Steele through his Classical Underground newsletter.

PS: Every partner is repeatedly sending to their email lists and posting on Facebook and Instagram. Both the City and School District have widely distributed emails to the community. A promotion was on lobby screens at the recent Ace Hotel performance of DakhaBrakha. Radio interviews are in the works for this week. A professional weeklong social media campaign was started today. The team is also making direct phone calls.

LRW: Will the event be live-streamed for those unable to attend?

PS: No.

LRW: Understood. What is your fundraising goal? Where may my readers donate directly if they cannot attend or watch the live-stream?

PS: The charity we selected is Direct Relief based in California and is 4-star-rated by Charity Navigator. We have set a pre-event goal of $50K to get the momentum started when people sit down. Attendees will be able to give through their phones and see their donation listed on the screen as the thermometer rises. The music will alternate with appeals from the stage, alongside the art and featured poetry.

LRW: Good to know. I’ll have to check them out. That’s very cool. The program sounds amazing. May I ask, who are the recipients of the funds?

PS: Direct Relief is a charitable healthcare supplies provider with extremely low overhead. Direct Relief is super-effective at getting supplies to where they are most needed through daily shipments to dynamic distribution networks and via backpacks intended to be worn by intrepid workers hiking into impacted areas. Give By Cell is providing the phone interface technology and training at a deeply discounted cost.

LRW: What an incredible organization. How may donations be made using Give By Cell if someone is unable to attend?

PS: Glad you asked. We just were trained on this today. Here are the steps:
1. Text 56512
2. Enter the password FROST
3. Enter the $Donation Amount
4. Enter your name
5. Press Send
Your donation gets posted to the screen on stage, showing the thermometer graphic increasing towards the goal. Very exciting!

LRW: Very straightforward. I will be doing that at the concert. Patrick, thank you for taking the time out from your busy schedule to be interviewed about this Sunday’s benefit concert. I wish all the best for an incredible turnout and that your goals to help the Ukraine are met. I look forward to seeing you there on Sunday. If any of my students or readers will be attending, I’d love to meet up for dessert and tea afterwards. You’re welcome to email me accordingly. Cheers! На здоров’я!

Ready to book your free seat? Reserve your ticket here.

Date: Sunday, May 1, 2022
Time: 6:30 PM
Place: Robert Frost Auditorium, Culver City

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