Violinist Nicola Benedetti accompanies real Ukrainian refugees’ stories with a soaring solo
29 March 2022, 22:46 | Updated: 29 March 2022, 23:04
The award-winning violinist joined Ed Sheeran, Camila Cabello, and other musical guests to raise money for Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.
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Nicola Benedetti appeared on live TV this evening to perform alongside some of music’s biggest presenters and artists for a unique concert organised by ITV, Livewire Pictures and the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), supported by Classic FM and its sister stations at Global.
The Scottish violin virtuoso’s solo followed a montage of 94 violinists from 29 countries performing the traditional Ukrainian folk song ‘Verbovaya Doschechka’, which featured soloists in Ukraine sheltering from ongoing attacks in basements. Organised by the British violinist Kerenza Peacock, the virtual performance provided a mournful moment of reflection at Tuesday night’s concert.
Ahead of her performance, Benedetti told Classic FM: “We’re all feeling a little helpless at this point, so anything you can do to help get resources to those that need it – it’s a privilege to be able to do anything.
“It’s right […] for everyone to play to their strengths, use the skills that you have already that you’ve dedicated your life to, and channel that into fundraising efforts or galvanising other people to do things – use those skills in order to do what you can.”
Benedetti followed the montage of violinists with a solo rendition of the folk song, as actors Tamsin Greig (Black Books, Friday Night Dinner) and Eddie Marsan read prose written by real Ukrainian refugees, many of whom have had their homes destroyed in the conflict, and have been forced to flee the country.
“We just want to sleep,” Marsan read. “And when we have slept, we will think about a solution. I just don’t want anyone to ever feel like we are feeling.”
The moving performance meant a lot to Benedetti, who told Classic FM: “There are practical challenges that people are dealing with on the ground and I think it’s our job to reach people’s sense of empathy and emotion in order to give money to then raise funds for those people. That will go towards very practical help for them.
“There’s nothing else you could do at this point, but show support for people where millions are fleeing the country and their homes being destroyed and family torn apart. I know many people personally whose fathers are in Ukraine and whose families are out of the country, or whose parents or grandparents are over 60 and have had to travel for a week to find somewhere safe to reside, so I couldn’t possibly do anything [at] this [point] that is not supporting Ukraine.”
Throughout history, music has held a powerful role in times of conflict, from cellist Mstislav Rostropovich playing Bach’s Cello Suites at the frontier at the Berlin Wall, two days after it fell in November 1989, to singers and musicians of the Odesa Opera House performing a defiant Verdi chorus on Ukraine’s frontline in March 2022, in a cry for peace.
“There’s all kinds of stories in the conflicts in history where music has served as solace, as a truce in moments of coming together,” Benedetti says. “But I think the purpose for me of tonight, is really to get those resources to people.
“I feel dedicated to playing with as much feeling as I can and hoping it inspires people to donate.”
Other performances on the night included music from Ukrainian singer and winner of the 2016 Eurovision competition, Jamala, alongside Ed Sheeran, Camila Cabello, Emeli Sandé, Gregory Porter, Snow Patrol and the Kingdom Choir.
Last week, Benedetti’s name appeared on an open letter calling for an end to the war in Ukraine, and an end to blanket boycotts against Russian and Belarusian artists.
“[The letter] called for the ceasing of boycotting Russian artists to have no traceable ties to the current regime in Russia,” Benedetti said of her decision to sign the letter, adding, “It’s something that makes sense to me”.
“At some point, you have to follow your heart and decisions like that. Each action has a consequence and each inaction does too. If you don’t sign it, that’s a very clear action as well. And for me, we talk about the multicultural expression of music and of classical music, we talk about that as being a certain level of impartiality and this this this area gets into very dangerous territory, of course, because we all have opinions about human rights, behaviour all over the world.
“It has to be a personal choice in the end, and you have to go with what you believe is right in your heart.”
Who is Nicola Benedetti?
Nicola Benedetti is a Grammy Award-winning Scottish-Italian violinist, and has recently been named as the next director of the Edinburgh International Festival.
In 2017, Benedetti was awarded the Queen’s Medal for Music, becoming its youngest ever recipient. She has also received nine honorary degrees to date, and was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours, ‘For services to Music’.
In 2019, the virtuoso violinist founded The Benedetti Foundation. Since its launch, the Foundation has worked with over 29,000 participants, aged two to 92, from 103 countries through its in-person workshops and online sessions for young people, students, teachers and adults.
The Foundation unites those who believe that music is integral to a great education and demonstrates teaching through innovative and creative musical experiences accessible to all.
How can I donate to the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal?
- Online: dec.org.uk
- Phone: 0370 60 60 900
- SMS: To donate £10 text ‘CRISIS’ to 70150. Texts cost £10 plus the standard network charge and the whole £10 goes to the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. You must be 16 or over and please ask the bill payer's permission. For full terms and conditions and more information go to dec.org.uk
- Or donate over the counter at any high street bank or post office or send a cheque by post to Post: DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal, PO Box 999, London EC3A 3AA.