Melody with a Mission Raises Support for Ukraine with ‘Songs of Freedom, Resilience, and Hope’ Concert

By Logan Martell

On May 9, 2022, Melody with a Mission presented “Songs of Freedom, Resilience, and Hope,” a benefit concert in support of Ukraine held at Lincoln Center’s Bruno Walter Auditorium.

Following a brief introduction by veteran Broadway dancer and choreographer Lillian Colon, the event was opened with remarks from MLM founder Judy Segal, who spoke on the organization’s purpose, the situation currently unfolding in Ukraine, and the power of music as a force for peace.

The concert was kicked off with the Ukrainian National Anthem, led by Olga Talyn and a small ensemble of singers in traditional clothes as the audience stood and expressed and their solidarity. The program was comprised of a mix of opera and musical theatre; following John Williams’ arrangement of variations on “Fiddler on the Roof” played by violinist Milena Dawidowicz, soprano Beier Zhao took to the stage for a prayerful rendition of Liu’s aria from “Turandot.” In a similar, pious vein was soprano Oleksandra Hrabova with “Song to the Moon” from Dvorak’s “Rusalka,” followed shortly after by baritone Daniel Sutin singing “Avant de Quitter ces Leaux” from Gounod’s Faust.

After soprano Amanda Zory’s rendition of “La Mamma Morta” from “Andrea Chenier,” the stage was turned over to Lynn Bartner-Wiesel, for a poignant reading of her father Elie Wiesel’s poem “What Really Makes Us Free.” Following this was two songs tenor Errin Duane Brooks, appearing courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera; setting the tone with “Make Them Hear You” from “Ragtime,” he thrilled the audience with his rendition of “Nessun Dorma” from “Turandot.” Closing the first half on a powerful note was soprano Cheryl Warfield with “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” as well as “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel.”

Also present were Manhattan and Queens Borough Presidents Mark Levine and Donovan Richards, who both gave brief remarks on their respective experiences in the country of Ukraine, as well as reaffirming their commitment to supporting incoming Ukrainian refugees. Later in the second half was a set of folk songs, sung by Oksana Telepko, who accompanied herself on the bandura. Closing out the concert was “Do You Hear the People Sing” from “Les Miserables.” This powerful ensemble number saw all of the artists return for one more display of musical unity, a fitting selection made all the more appropriate by the section performed in Ukrainian.

As organizations worldwide express their solidarity with Ukraine in this difficult time, Monday’s concert saw a wide array of artists bare their gifts before the gathered audience of the Bruno Walter Auditorium. Proceeds raised by this concert will go towards Razom for Ukraine, International Rescue Committee, and International Fund for Animal Welfare.