Musical plea for peace

94 violinists from 25 countries form chorus in support of Ukraine

Young Kyiv-based violinists, filming themselves between shelling and explosions, are joined by fiddlers from around the world in a moving rendition of a Ukrainian folk song

Amanda Borschel-Dan is The Times of Israel's Jewish World and Archaeology editor.

While practicing her scales on February 24, like many in the world, popular violinist Kerenza Peacock‘s attention was turned toward Ukraine.

“So I took to Instagram and befriended some violinists in Ukraine. Some were also practicing their scales — in between arming themselves with Molotov cocktails. Some violinists were hiding in basements and bomb shelters in Kyiv, but still had their violins with them,” relates Peacock on the Violinists Support Ukraine website.

A grassroots musical movement, #ViolinistsSupportUkraine, grew from this concern with her fellow fiddlers under siege that was shared by other colleagues around the world. The website includes a link-tree of select humanitarian aid organizations.

“Devastated to hear the explosions were so close, and desperate to offer some comfort, I asked one of them, young virtuoso Illia Bondarenko, if he would film himself playing in his basement shelter,” says Peacock. “He had to film in between explosions because he could not hear himself.”

Peacock eventually asked nine additional young Ukrainian violinists to play in unison with Bondarenko, as well as classical violinists and popular fiddlers from around the world to harmonize. The result is a video of a diverse, international violin chorus never before heard.

“In the space of 48 hours, I received videos from 94 violinists, representing over 25 different countries,” says Peacock.

Among the violinists is California-based Phillip Levy representing Israel, as well as a plethora of major symphony orchestra players from London, Tokyo, Oslo and Hollywood Studios. The entire violin section of the Munich Chamber Orchestra plays along.

Ukrainian violinists are joined in harmony by top violinists across the world. 94 violinists. 29 countries. (#ViolinistsSupportUkraine)

The violinists are playing an old Ukrainian folk song called “Verbovaya Doschechka” or “The Willow Board.” Bondarenko wrote the arrangement.

Says Peacock, “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.”

She cites 23-year-old Ukrainian violinist Mariia Klymenko, who said her brothers had enlisted into armed defense.

“She said more Ukrainians wanted to join us but they now have guns in their hands instead of violins,” says Peacock.

“The violin has traditionally been an instrument through which to express grief. Watching each video as it arrived in my inbox was very emotional. It seems like everyone is praying with their violins,” she says.

The Violinists Support Ukraine website includes sheet music to the folk song. Peacock invites all to play along with the video.

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