New ‘Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra’ to stage free Edinburgh International Festival concert

Ukrainian refugees are to get a starring role in this year's Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) under plans to stage a free concert with a newly-formed “freedom orchestra”.

Tuesday, 26th April 2022, 1:37 pm

The festival, which is marking the 75th anniversary of its formation in the aftermath of the Second World War, will be hosting the orchestra’s only performance in Scotland on its opening weekend in August at the Usher Hall – its flagship venue for classical music.

The concert will feature musicians who have fled Ukraine, Ukrainian members of European orchestras and around 75 military-age male musicians who have been granted a special exemption to go on a tour of Europe and the United States with the orchestra.

The show, tickets for which will be available in June, is a late addition to the EIF’s programme, which was already due to feature a special strand of shows exploring issues around refugeehood, migration, identity and inclusion.

The newly-formed 'Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra' will be appearing at this year's Edinburgh International Festival.

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    In the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine, the EIF announced it would be severing its long-standing links with a Russian conductor, Valery Gergiev, who was appointed honorary president of the festival in 2011.

    Invitations to attend the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra concert will be issued to members of the Ukrainian community in Scotland, as well as people leading humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, and people helping to resettle refugees in Scotland.

    The performance will feature Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov’s Seventh Symphony, Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Ukrainian virtuoso Anna Fedorova, and leading Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska performing an aria from Verdi’s Aida.

    The orchestra has been formed by Canadian-Ukrainian conductor Keri Lynn-Wilson, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, which her husband Peter Gelb is general manager of, and the Polish National Opera.

    Keri-Lynn Wilson is leading the new 'Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra’. Picture: Igor Zakharki

    It includes members of the Kyiv National Opera, National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, Lviv Philharmonic Orchestra and Kharkiv Opera, plus the Tonkunstler Orchestra of Vienna, the Belgian National Orchestra and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam.

    Its tour, which will visit Edinburgh on Saturday, August 6, will open at the home of Polish National Opera in Warsaw, and will also include the BBC Proms in London, as well as shows in France, Germany, New York and Washington.

    Ms Wilson said: "I wanted to bring the best orchestral musicians of Ukraine together, from both inside and outside of their country, in a proud display of artistic unity. This tour is an expression of love for their homeland and to honour those who have died and have suffered so much."

    EIF director Fergus Linehan said: “The staff and board of the festival are honoured to be given the opportunity to welcome our colleagues from Ukraine and offer them our support and solidarity at this time.”

    The Usher Hall will be playing host to the free concert by the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra at this year's Edinburgh International Festival. Picture: Clark James

    Ukraine’s minister of culture Oleksandr Tkachenko said: “Today culture is showing a completely new side.

    "It can also be the ‘soft power’ that helps heal wounds. Ukrainian culture is original and deserves to be at the centre of attention abroad. We thank our international colleagues for producing the tour.”

    Edinburgh’s Lord Provost Frank Ross said: “Music unifies us all and I’m thrilled that Edinburgh will host this very special event on the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra’s only performance in Scotland.

    "This unique night will allow a celebration of Ukraine’s culture and demonstrating the power of art in times of adversity.”

    Edinburgh International Festival director Fergus Linehan. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
    Frank Ross, Edinburgh's Lord Provost. Picture: Scott Louden
    The newly-formed Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra will also be playing at the Royal Albert Hall in London as part of the BBC Proms season this London. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire