Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra: Beethoven’s Ninth

29 July 2024, 7.30pm

St Paul’s Cathedral

Tickets from £30 plus booking fee

On the evening of Monday 29 July 2024, the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra and its founder and conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson will join the Royal Opera House’s Songs for Ukraine Chorus in a historic performance at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral. 

In a concert presented by the Barbican, Royal Opera House and Askonas Holt, the orchestra and chorus will perform Beethoven’s Symphony No 9 in the Ukrainian language. In the 200th-anniversary year of the symphony and its famous “Ode To Joy” fourth movement which premiered in May 1824, the orchestra’s acclaimed Ukrainian-language version of the work (recorded and released on Deutsche Grammophon in Feb 2024) will be performed to re-assert values of freedom, sovereignty, and resistance against Russia’s invasion.

Following their performance at the Barbican in 2023, the orchestra return to the City of London for this special performance in St Paul’s Cathedral, as part of the orchestra’s tour of the great cathedrals and concert halls of Europe and the USA and their continuing demonstration of Ukrainian artistry as the nation fights for its freedom. 

The orchestra is joined for this performance by the Royal Opera House’s Songs for Ukraine Chorus, formed in spring 2023 in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and made up of 130 Ukrainian people, a majority of whom have been displaced by the war.

Yaroslava Matvieienko, member of the ROH Songs for Ukraine Chorus says: “I went to St Paul’s a few years ago as a tourist but could not even think that I would be returning as a performer of a classical masterpiece in the Ukrainian language! I want to welcome old and especially new friends and compatriots to share the power of music, and the sense of togetherness and pride for our country Ukraine and Ukrainians. This concert is the best way to see and understand our inner spirit when we unite.” 

The awe-inspiring architecture of St Paul’s Cathedral is an apt backdrop for Beethoven’s mighty work and this unique collaboration between the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra, the Barbican and the Royal Opera House. Performing together beneath the iconic dome of St Paul’s for the first time, the orchestra, choruses and the orchestra’s founder and conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson will join the ranks of other great orchestras and conductors who have performed beneath it.  

Keri-Lynn Wilson, Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra founder and conductor, says: “As Ukraine continues its fight on behalf of the free world, it needs our support more than ever and we will proudly take our message across Europe and the United States in an expression of love for Ukraine and our steadfastness in our resistance to tyranny.

Over the years, St Paul’s Cathedral has held performances from Barbican’s resident orchestra the London Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonic Orchestra, the Hallé Orchestra, and conductors from Leonard Bernstein to Mark Elder and Daniel Harding. 

The concert will open with the UK premiere of a new work by acclaimed Ukrainian composer Victoria Vita Polevá entitled Freedom. The piece is the latest in a series of responses to the invasion composed by Polevá, including Bucha. Lacrimosa, created in memory of the innocent victims of the Russian invasion of the Ukrainian town of Bucha in 2022. 

Helen Wallace, Barbican Head of Music says: “We’re thrilled to be supporting the Ukraine Freedom Orchestra again following their Barbican concert last year, and at this very special City of London venue. The Royal Opera House’s inspirational Songs for Ukraine project is all about the importance of collaboration and the power of music to unify people. It’s a timely opportunity to honour the bravery of the Ukrainian people in the face of this brutal invasion.

Jillian Barker, Royal Opera House Director of Learning and Participation says: “The Royal Opera House is incredibly proud and humbled to be a part of this wonderful concert. Our Songs for Ukraine Chorus was created to unite the Ukrainian community through the power of music, and this collaboration with the Barbican, Keri-Lynn Wilson and the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra is a continuation of our support and admiration for the people of Ukraine.

About the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra 

The Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra was formed in 2022 by Keri-Lynn Wilson, in coordination with the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, and the Polish National Opera in Warsaw. It was a direct response to Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine and a bold initiative to defend Ukraine’s cultural legacy as the country fights for its freedom in the face of violence and aggression. The orchestra brings together leading musicians in Ukraine alongside Ukrainian musicians forced into exile by the war and Ukrainian members of European ensembles. Male members of the orchestra based in Ukraine have been given special governmental permission to leave the country and deploy their musical excellence as part of the wider war effort in a remarkable demonstration of the power of art over adversity.

About the Royal Opera House’s Songs for Ukraine Chorus 

The Royal Opera House’s Songs for Ukraine Chorus was established in spring 2023 in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Made up of 130 Ukrainian people, a majority of whom have been displaced by the war, the Chorus celebrates Ukrainian culture and resilience. Formed as part of the Royal Opera House’s Creative Exchange programme, the Songs for Ukraine Chorus, performing alongside members of the Royal Opera Chorus, demonstrate the power of music to inspire hope and solidarity. 

Presented by the Barbican, Royal Opera House and Askonas Holt

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