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Brooks Center to host orchestra from Ukraine, seeks donations to offer free tickets to local refugees


As war in Ukraine makes continued headlines around the world, a resolute group of musicians has pledged to carry the spirit of their homeland out of their conflict-torn cities and across the United States as cultural ambassadors for their country. The Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine will bring that spirit to the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts on January 24, 2023, as part of a 40-date U.S. tour.

Janice Crews, executive director of the Brooks Center, said she hopes that community support will bring a large group of Ukrainians together in a foreign place and lift the spirits of everyone in the audience and on the stage alike.

Ripple effects from the war have reached nearly every corner of the globe, and at least 1,340 Ukrainian refugees have made their way to temporary safety in the Upstate, according to Amberly Chirolla, the Greenville resettlement director for Lutheran Services Carolinas. The Brooks Center is seeking donations to offer as many as 250 of those refugees and their host families tickets to attend the Clemson musical event.

“I recently saw a post on social media by a local woman asking for help with beds, clothes and toys for six Ukrainian relatives who were coming to live with her indefinitely,” said Crews. “The outpouring of generosity she received was so touching, and it sparked the idea to invite displaced Ukrainians to our concert, along with their host families. I hope the music brings them peace and that they feel warmly welcomed here in Clemson.”

The orchestra is one of the oldest in Ukraine and has toured the world, including Poland, Italy, Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands and The People’s Republic of China. During the past several seasons they have completed highly acclaimed recordings for major international labels including Naxos, Toccata Classics and Brilliant Classics.

The orchestra is conducted by American conductor of Ukrainian origin, Theodore Kuchar, who said getting in and out of Ukraine is a luxury few have right now, and every member of the orchestra will be leaving their families behind under incredibly difficult circumstances.

They see this tour as a sacred duty.

“My colleagues and I represent the country and its culture as Ukraine’s preeminent cultural ambassadors,” said Kuchar. “Of course, life in Ukraine at present is extremely difficult, both in terms of survival but also in a practical sense. Members of the orchestra, or their spouses or family members, have voluntarily served in the armed forces. Many have returned, some have not. Someone has lost an arm, somebody a leg. Absolutely nothing can be taken for granted and you never know who may be present in what audience — never! Our program at Clemson University presents the combination of repertoire that motivated each of my colleagues to devoting our lives to becoming highly skilled, classical performers.”

A conductor wearing a formal black suit waves his baton and gestures
Conductor Theodore Kuchar

Kuchar — who had to wait three days in order to have sufficient electricity to return emails for this story since he is currently allowed only four hours of electricity in his home per day due to severe rationing — said the orchestra is prepared to perform 15 major pieces on rotation during their U.S. tour. At Clemson, the program will feature three of those pieces: “Tragic Overture” by Johannes Brahms, “Emperor” Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major by Ludwig van Beethoven with acclaimed soloist Stanislav Khristenko, and Symphony No. 2 in D major by Jean Sibelius.

The inclusion of the piece by Sibelius might be the most profound, said Crews, because it was written in 1902 at a time when the composer’s native country of Finland experienced extreme oppression through harsh sanctions on Finnish language and culture by neighboring Russia.

Emily Rundall, the community engagement coordinator for Lutheran Services Carolina, said that many people in the Upstate have voiced their support for the Ukrainian refugees since the war started, and this event will be an opportunity to have a genuinely positive impact on them.

“The invitation of the Ukrainian refugee population to this concert is a way for our community to really show their support and directly tell them, ‘We see you, we really do stand with you, and we value your culture,'” said Rundall. “Working with this population has been life-changing for our whole team. Hearing their stories is truly eye-opening. I would encourage everybody to see how they can get involved with the refugee population, even if it’s just a little bit. We need help in our work of course, but we truly want to share this opportunity with everyone. They are some of the most resilient people you’ll ever meet and getting to know them is a privilege.”

Kuchar promised that, despite the trying circumstances each member of the orchestra is leaving behind at home, their performance will be impeccable.

“One of the most important philosophies any performer must incorporate in their mentality is that whether you are making a debut at Carnegie Hall or the Sydney Opera House, or whether it’s performance number 27 of a 40-concert tour, it is imperative that you have the attitude that this is the first and most important performance of your life,” he said. “Ultimately, it is most important that performers have an equal respect to whatever and wherever the venue may be and to know that every audience member present has made a sacrifice of some sort to be present.”

Tickets are $40 for adults. To donate or sponsor tickets for local Ukrainian refugees and their host families to attend, visit the Brooks Center’s online giving page. Learn more and connect with Lutheran Services Carolina by visiting their volunteer information request form.

For more information about tickets and giving, contact Renee Dooley at