‘A form of hope’: while air raid sirens sound, a Lviv orchestra opens a summer festival with Mozart’s Requiem.

The audience took their places among medicine boxes, first aid kits and intravenous tubes. The orchestra was missing four men who are now fighting on the front lines in the war. A handful of guest singers who had fled the bombing and bloodshed were on stage with the choir.

The war in Ukraine has disrupted the meticulous planning of the Lviv Philharmonic’s annual summer music festival for four decades. But for the musicians and the audience, the show must go on.

Although the space – a pastel-colored Baroque chamber in western Ukraine – became a coordination site for humanitarian supplies during the war, it remained a home for musicians and choirs. This spring, instead of playing upbeat music at the festival’s first performance, the orchestra decided to open with Mozart’s Requiem.

The concert, performed on Friday evening, was a tribute to the Ukrainians lost in three months of war.

“This is now a place for medicine, for the body and soul,” said Liliia Svystovych, a teacher in the audience. “We understand that a requiem speaks of mourning, which is sad music. But it’s like a prayer. And a prayer is always a form of hope ».

About an hour before the concert began, the air raid sirens began to sound.

Iolanta Pryshlyak, director of the Lviv International Symphony Orchestra, was preparing to delay the concert until the sound was completely clear. As she waited in a back room where doctors were packing medical bags, she answered calls from volunteers who were leading relief efforts to eastern Ukraine.

Ms. Pryshlyak, 59, isn’t just the conductor now. Since the beginning of the invasion, you have also directed the flow of supplies passing through the theater to the war front. She is her base for both jobs.

She was awake from 4 in the morning and tired: “I’m just running on autopilot.”

However, he was looking forward to a night of music. “War makes your heart like stone,” she said. “But music can soften it again.”

Downstairs, the conductor, Volodymyr Syvokhip, donned a suit in his office while a baritone soloist sang arpeggios in a nearby room.

For weeks, artists had been rehearsing humanitarian aid boxes among the towers as volunteers and doctors arranged supplies all around them. Sometimes the musicians helped aid workers. And sometimes the doctors stopped their work to listen to them play.

“We are supporting each other in this, somehow,” said Mr. Syvokhip with a smile.

As he took the stage, Mr. Syvokhip told the audience that while anti-aircraft sirens sounded in Lviv, a bomb in the eastern region of Kharkiv had reduced a cultural center and, with it, the local theater to rubble.

At the end of the requiem, the orchestra members and their audience were in tears.

“The sound of those alarms and sirens joined in our heads with the conductor’s words, and we understood why musicians shouldn’t be silent,” said Natalia Dub, director of a local academy.

She had been taking as much care of her appearance this year as she had done for summer festivals before, with red lipstick and a string of pearls.

“We have to come here,” he said. “This is where we need to be most of all.”

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