94 violinists play alongside young Ukrainian soloist stuck inside a bomb shelter

14 March 2022, 14:23 | Updated: 29 March 2022, 22:21

Violinists Across the World Play for Ukraine

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

The young Ukrainian violinist had to film in between explosions because he could not hear himself play.

Violinists from 29 countries, including players from the London Symphony Orchestra, have raised their instruments in solidarity with a young violinist in a bomb shelter in Kyiv.

Filming himself from inside the shelter, Illia Bondarenko opens the video with a solo rendition of the Ukrainian folk song ‘Verbovaya Doschechka’. As the video pans out, Bondarenko is joined by nine other young violinists sheltering across Ukraine.

Gradually, the young musicians are accompanied in harmony by players from the London Symphony, Tokyo Symphony and Oslo Philharmonic, eventually building into a virtual orchestra of 94 musicians from around the world. The montage was later streamed at ITV’s televised fundraiser, Concert for Ukraine, and accompanied by a live solo from star Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti.

British violinist Kerenza Peacock, who organised the virtual performance, said she wanted to create “an international violin choir of support” for those hidden in shelters. Bondarenko, she added, had to film in between explosions because he could not hear himself play.

Read more: Ukrainian pianist plays a final Chopin melody before fleeing ruined home near Kyiv

Ukrainian violinist Illia Bondarenko is joined by violinists from 29 countries
Ukrainian violinist Illia Bondarenko is joined by violinists from 29 countries. Picture: Courtesy of Kerenza Peacock

Peacock befriended the young musicians over Instagram, and had their videos edited together with performances from top violinists from the US, UK, New Zealand, Belgium, Georgia, Poland, South Korea, Netherlands, South Africa, Moldova, Germany, India, Japan, Norway and beyond.

From a lone fiddler in the Scottish Highlands to the renowned English violinist Daniel Hope, the performances conveyed a message of hope, Peacock explained.

“Violinists are a fellowship who all have rosin and broken E strings in common, but sadly some are currently having to think about how to arm themselves, and hiding in bomb shelters instead of playing Beethoven or bluegrass.

“The violin has traditionally been an instrument through which to express grief. One Ukrainian violinist told me that as she was playing this, her brothers were heading off to fight.

“Watching each video as it arrived in my inbox was very emotional. It is like everyone is praying with their violins.”

Read more: Ukrainian violinist plays to her bomb shelter in moving and powerful footage

Orchestra in self-quarantine host virtual concert and perform Ode to Joy

In response to the LSO’s tweet of the video, which has had over 1 million views, composer and conductor Crispin Ward commented: “Any Ukrainian university aged music students who are fleeing the war and want to continue their music education should know that we at the University of Chichester Conservatoire would be pleased to try and take as many as we can for free. DM me”.

Footballer Gary Lineker also shared the video on Twitter, writing: “Beautiful. Without the megalomaniacal, narcissistic and bizarrely territorial leaders across the world, I reckon we’d all get along pretty peacefully.”

Peacock encourages anyone who is moved by the video to show their support and donate to any of the charities suggested by Violinists Support Ukraine.

Two days after the release of Peacock’s video, violinist and Royal College of Music student Yuliya Ostapchuk released a virtual performance of the Ukrainian State Anthem recorded by 73 musicians from 24 countries (watch below).

“In the time of such difficulty and uncertainty for the future of Ukraine, I was overwhelmed by the extreme support and interest from musicians all over the world to be involved in my project of recording the Ukrainian State Anthem,” Ostapchuk said. “The scores were provided by [Ukrainian conductor] Oksana Lyniv.”

United Through Music - Ukrainian State Anthem