On May 9, 2022, Melody with a Mission presented “Songs of Freedom, Resilience, and Hope,” a benefit concert in support of Ukraine held at the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center.
After a brief introduction by veteran Broadway dancer and choreographer Lillian Colon, the event was opened with remarks from MLM founder Judy Segal, who spoke about the purpose of the organization, the situation that is currently taking place in Ukraine and the power of music as a force for peace.
The concert opened with the Ukrainian national anthem, led by Olga Talyn and a small ensemble of singers in traditional dress as the audience stood up and expressed their solidarity. The program consisted of a mixture of opera and musical theatre; After John Williams’ arrangement of variations on “Fiddler on the Roof” played by violinist Milena Dawidowicz, soprano Beier Zhao took the stage for a prayerful rendition of Liu’s aria from “Turandot.” In the same pious vein, soprano Oleksandra Hrabova with “Song to the Moon” from “Rusalka” by Dvorak, followed shortly after by baritone Daniel Sutin singing “Avant de Quitter ces Leaux” from Faust by Gounod.
After soprano Amanda Zory’s rendition of “La Mamma Morta” from “Andrea Chenier,” the stage was given to Lynn Bartner-Wiesel, for a poignant reading of her father Elie Wiesel’s poem “What Really Makes Us Free.” . After that, two-song tenor Errin Duane Brooks, appearing courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera; setting the tone with “Make Them Hear You” from “Ragtime,” he thrilled the audience with his rendition of “Nessun Dorma” from “Turandot.” Soprano Cheryl Warfield closed the first half on a powerful note with “He’s got the whole world in his hands” as well as “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel.”
Also in attendance were Manhattan and Queens Borough Presidents Mark Levine and Donovan Richards, who both made brief remarks about their respective experiences in Ukraine, while reaffirming their commitment to supporting incoming Ukrainian refugees. Later in the second half was a set of folk songs, sung by Oksana Telepko, which accompanied herself on the bandura. The closing of the concert was “Do You Hear the People Sing” from “Les Miserables”. This powerful ensemble number saw all the artists return for another display of musical unity, a fitting selection made all the more fitting by the section performed in Ukrainian.
As organizations around the world express their solidarity with Ukraine at this difficult time, Monday’s concert saw a wide range of performers show off their donations in front of the assembled audience in the Bruno Walter Auditorium. Proceeds from this concert will go to Razom for Ukraine, the International Rescue Committee and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.