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‘A type of hope’: As air-raid sirens sound, a Lviv orchestra opens a summer festival with Mozart’s Requiem.


The audience members took their seats amongst boxes of drugs, first-aid kits and intravenous tubes. The orchestra was missing 4 men who are actually fighting on the war’s front lines. A handful of guest singers who had fled bombings and bloodshed stood onstage with the choir.

The war in Ukraine has upended the meticulous planning that has gone into the Lviv Philharmonic’s annual summer music festival for 4 a long time. But for musicians and the audience, the show must go on.

At the same time as the space — a Baroque, pastel-colored chamber in western Ukraine — has grow to be a coordination site for humanitarian supplies in the course of the war, it has remained a house to musicians and choirs. This spring, as a substitute of playing upbeat music on the festival’s first performance, the orchestra decided to open with Mozart’s Requiem.

The concert, performed on Friday night, was a tribute to the Ukrainians lost in three months of war.

“This can be a place now for medicine — for the body and the soul,” said Liliia Svystovych, a teacher within the audience. “We understand that a requiem is about mourning, that it is unhappy music. But it surely is sort of a prayer. And a prayer is at all times a type of hope.”

About an hour before the concert began, air-raid sirens began to wail.

Iolanta Pryshlyak, the director of Lviv’s International Symphony Orchestra, was preparing to delay the concert until the all-clear sounded. As she waited in a back room where doctors were packing up medical supplies, she took phone calls from volunteers who were driving aid to Ukraine’s embattled east.

Ms. Pryshlyak, 59, will not be only the orchestra director now. For the reason that invasion began, she has also directed the flow of supplies that go through the theater on their option to the war’s front lines. It’s her base for each jobs.

She had been up since 4 a.m., and he or she was drained: “I’m just running on autopilot.”

Still, she was looking forward to an evening of music. “War makes your heart like a stone,” she said. “But music can soften it again.”

Downstairs, the orchestra’s conductor, Volodymyr Syvokhip, placed on a suit in his office as a baritone soloist sang arpeggios in a close-by room.

For weeks, performers had rehearsed amid towers of humanitarian aid boxes as volunteers and doctors organized supplies throughout them. Sometimes the musicians would help the help staff. And sometimes the medics would stop their work to hearken to them play.

“We’re supporting one another through this, indirectly,” Mr. Syvokhip said with a smile.

As he went onstage, Mr. Syvokhip told the audience that as air-raid sirens sounded in Lviv, a bomb within the eastern Kharkiv region had reduced a cultural center to rubble, and with it, the local theater.

When the requiem ended, members of the orchestra and their audience were in tears.

“The sound of those alarms and sirens combined in our heads with the words of the conductor, and we understood why musicians must not keep silent,” said Natalia Dub, a headmistress at an area academy.

She had put as much care into her appearance this 12 months as she had for summer festivals before it, with red lipstick and a string of pearls.

“We want to return here,” she said. “That is the place we should be most of all.”

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