HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — A soft, peaceful melody filled Regency Square in Henrico County on Sunday afternoon. But the beautiful sound was a stark contrast to what it was being played for. The Richmond Concert Band opened its first performance of the year at the Mall with a hymn titled “Prayer for Ukraine”.
“It was written in the late 1800s and has actually been a traditional Ukrainian anthem ever since,” said the band’s librarian, Kathy Kreutzer. “Even though we want people to come and relax and enjoy the music, we also try to commemorate events happening around the world.”
Band members said it was a way for them to pay tribute to a country devastated by war.
“We just thought it was just a little tribute to say, ‘Hey, we care,'” clarinetist Melissa Sleeth said. “And as a community, we’re looking for another community. If we can do our bit, just let people know what’s going on elsewhere, then that’s a good thing.
The group joined choirs, symphonies and groups around the world who have played the anthem in recent weeks as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine.
“Music is universal, and I think it’s a way for musicians around the world to reach out,” Kreutzer said. “We saw images of musicians in Ukraine performing solo in front of ruins, and the Ukrainian national anthem and the anthem for Ukraine were both performed.”
Percussionist Stan Steeley echoed the sentiment.
“I think everyone is really trying to contribute to it musically however we can, and the name ‘Prayer for Ukraine’ kind of says it,” Steeley said.
Many local business owners have also stepped up to help organize fundraisers and solidarity events to benefit Ukrainians.
The efforts come as the United States plans to take in up to 100,000 refugees from Ukraine, and Sen. Mark Warner (D – Virginia) hopes Virginia will be part of the effort.
Warner pointed to the fact that Fort Lee and Fort Pickett have recently housed thousands of refugees from Afghanistan.
“I hope, just as we have welcomed Afghan refugees, that we will welcome Ukrainians,” said Senator Warner.
Meanwhile, the Richmond musicians said they would continue to support Ukrainians in times of need.
“It’s really a humanitarian thing,” Steeley said. “And it’s really about people.”
“Say a little prayer for these people who are going through a very difficult time right now,” Sleeth said.
To learn more about the Richmond Concert Band, visit their website.