Ukrainian Symphony Orchestra perform at Fairfield Halls in first UK tour for 20 years

Yellow and blue lit up the foyer and stage at Fairfield Halls for the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine last night. Pic: Ray Bonsall

The Ukrainian Symphony Orchestra took to the stage of Fairfield Halls in Croydon on Wednesday night to perform part of their first UK tour in twenty years.

The set was conducted by Ukrainian born conductor, Volodymyr Sirenko, and included works by Richard Strauss and Beethoven as well as Ukrainian composer Boris Lyatonshinsky. The pianist for the performance Antonii Baryshevyski also played an unlisted piece by contemporary Ukrainian composer and pianist Valentin Silvestrov.

The performance was one of many arts events taking place in Croydon this year as part of the London Borough of Culture programme.

The performance was met by a standing ovation with many members of the audience waving Ukrainian flags and dressed in blue and yellow.

Ukrainian audience members waved flags at Wednesday night’s performance. Pic: Ray Bonsall

Liudmyla Bondarenko, a 36-year-old English student at Croydon College (pictured far right) told ELL: “I’m happy the performance was in Croydon. I have seen at least twenty Ukrainian friends from the community at Fairfield Halls.”

Fairfield Halls also displayed artworks by Ukrainian-born artist Uliana Shcherbak, 18, to accompany the orchestra performance. Shcherbak told ELL that she fled her hometown near the Ukrainian city of Dnipro over a year ago due to the war.

Shcherbak said: “I really liked the performance. It was really important for me to be here and a great honour to exhibit my work here.”

Shcherbak told ELL that the piece had originally had an accompanying soundscape featuring an air raid siren but that it had to be removed as the sound was traumatic for many who had experienced war.

Svitlana Sheremet, a mother and childminder living in Croydon, told ELL: “I was very impressed by all the performances. I was especially touched by the last two pieces. They reminded me of Kyiv – emotion and joy and tears at the same time”.

Sheremet told ELL that her daughter had seen Russian tanks before they fled Kyiv to seek refuge in the UK in August 2022.

Maja Oleksy, a 17-year-old art student at Croydon College, said: “It was the first concert I’ve seen and it definitely made me love classical music.”

The concert was attended by the Mayor of Croydon, Jason Perry, who expressed his support for the Ukrainian community on social media.

The National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine was formed by Ukraine’s Council of Ministers in 1918. It is the country’s principal orchestra and is recognised as one of the finest symphony orchestras in Eastern Europe.

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