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Ukrainian Musicians Delight Audience at Castle Concert
15 Jul 2022

Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra was joined by some very special guests from Ukraine at its open air concert at Shrewsbury Castle this week - pictures by Andy Bell Photography

Ukrainian musicians sang their national anthem in a specially formed choir accompanied by Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra in an outdoor concert at the castle this week in aid of Shropshire Supports Refugees.

It was a moving evening of music-making in defiance of all the hurt and upset in the world, led by orchestra conductor John Moore and featuring favourites including Pomp & Circumstance, Jerusalem, Nimrod, Radetsky March, Die Meistersingers Overture and more. Also playing along with our town's symphony orchestra was Nana Illarionova, 22, who would ordinarily be playing with the orchestra at Karazin Kharkiv National University, but has fled to the UK without her violin. She borrowed an instrument from SSO viola player Jane Park in order to join in. 

Nana playing the borrowed violin

Nana (pictured here playing the borrowed violin) said: "I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the whole orchestra for giving me the opportunity to take my mind off things and enjoy this wonderful moment. Though we speak different languages (my English is not perfect yet), music is the language of the world and unites people from different corners of the Earth. 
"Professionals in their field, musicians to the core and incredibly open-minded people - this is the Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra. I am very glad to be a part of this big team for one evening."

The Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra in action at the castle

In Ukraine, Nana would used to perform a lot and would also enjoy making music in the evenings with friends. She arrived in the UK three months ago under the sponsorship programme for Ukrainians and is hosted by Paula and Rhett Costin, who she describes as an 'incredible couple'.

"They are wonderful people and I was very lucky to meet them. In general there have been only very kind and friendly people in my experience during these three months in Shrewsbury. I want to say a big thank you to everyone! I really wish there was finally peace in my country so I could invite everyone to my home for a cup of tea too!"

Ukrainian refugees join the singing at the castle

Olena Sazonkina, a music teacher and pianist in Kyiv, and conductor Nataliia, helped prepare the choir to sing the national anthem in harmony - and to arrange for members to wear traditional folk wreath headdresses: "I'm amazed by the effort the orchestra has made to raise money and give support to refugees and musicians."

Orchestra Chairman Jon Box said more than £1,200 had been raised for Shropshire Supports Refugees. The orchestra charged only £2 for entry, asking audience members to donate in lieu of the full ticket price. 

He added: "We were delighted to be able to present a great evening of music and to promote the work of Shropshire Supports Refugees. Sharing the stage with musicians from Ukraine was the highlight of the concert for the audience and the orchestra."

Celebrations at the SSO concert at Shrewsbury castle