20/06/2022 Juliana Széchenyi

Charity Concert at SNG Maribor: mature, passionate youthful music-making

Great Hall SNG Maribor, which was not as full as expected, the night before last was an unforgettable charity concert for young musicians from Ukraine who had taken refuge in Slovenia before the war in their homeland. They performed together with members of Slovenian Youth Orchestra (SMO) and some members of the Symphony Orchestra SNG Maribor.

The charity concert was first held in the Gallus Hall of Cankarjev dom, and now the members of Soroptimist Maribor have brought it to Maribor. The soul of the project was Soroptimist and tireless cultural activist, supporter of young talents, former radio personality Ivanka Mulec Ploj. When bombs started falling on their homes, the leadership of the Youth Ukrainian Orchestra sought help and the leadership of the SMO from Ljubljana. The first evacuations of young people took place at the Hungarian-Ukrainian border. It was not only dangerous, but also time-consuming. There were transports from Budapest, and individuals arrived by train. It was difficult to see and receive children without parents - frightened, hungry, poorly dressed. They had their instruments with them, and some did not, says Ivanka Mulec Ploj. There were also some mothers who came with several children, some of them very young and not members of the Youth Orchestra, but came with an older sibling. Today, all members of the Youth Orchestra are provided with individual instrument tuition, chamber music, orchestral rehearsals and also general education. They are housed in rented apartments, housing communities and some even in hotels. Adults have also taken custody of other people's children, as they are all minors. Conductor and leader SMO Živa Ploj Peršuh and husband Tomo Peršuh have grown their family by 14 children. Tomo drives a van to transport food from various donor warehouses, buys cosmetics and school supplies, Ziva takes care of the children's schedules, education, medical care and mental health issues. Things are looking up, things are moving slowly and the conductor hopes that by the end of July everyone will have statuses, health insurance and be more independent, at least the older teenagers. Although they took refuge in Slovenia at the beginning of March, the first one on the 6th of March, they still depend on the help of fellow citizens, donations, including from abroad, and the goodwill of Slovenians. All of the children are extremely talented, as both concerts showed, and are students of the rigorous music education in Ukraine. They often talk to their relatives in Ukraine to see if their houses are still standing, if it is possible to live in the block, if their brothers and sisters are OK... Of course, they all have in common that they would like to go home as soon as possible. With their concert in Maribor, the young musicians from Ukraine also wanted to thank the people of Slovenia who welcomed them so warmly and enabled them to dream of professional music careers, which is their goal. All the funds they will raise will go to them. The concert of the Ukrainian-Slovenian Symphony Orchestra Musich for the Future was conducted by Olga Homa, who conducts Ukrainian music and is assistant to Oksana Liniv, the principal conductor of the Ukrainian Youth Orchestra, and Živa Ploj Peršuh. They performed Mikola Lisenko's Taras Bulba Overture, Mikhail Verbicki and Stanislav Lidkevich's Symphony in D major, Slavko Osterc's Religiosa (from the Suite for Orchestra) and Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No.8 in G major, Op. 88. For the encore, there is also Melody by the Ukrainian Miroslav Skorik. As part of the Music for the Future project, a national initiative of both countries, both partners have committed to organise concerts, festivals, masterclasses, social events, and scholarship opportunities at various music academies around the world. What is most commendable, alongside the concern for the highest artistic level, is above all the extraordinary humanitarianism that has never been witnessed in these spaces on this scale and with such a complex organisation. And all these children and young people are making such superb music. Watching the mature performance of Dvorak's Symphony No 8, it was almost hard to believe that these were such young musicians. How they followed the conductor Ziva, disciplined, every gesture. The brilliant interpretation, the superb technique, the musicality, the enthusiasm of the 64 male and female performers can stand alongside any professional orchestra. And it was especially hard to pull it together and give it their all, because on the very day of the concert they found out that they had lost a young musician friend at the front. Those of us in the hall were a little ashamed, we couldn't wait for the lights to go down, so that we couldn't see the voids in the stalls. Maribor has a reputation as a humanitarian city, but unfortunately, on Saturday night, that was the only thing we did not see to the extent we would have expected.

They even wrote to the Prime Minister
What is most pressing at the national level at this time regarding young Ukrainian musicians in our country is the absence of legislation. The Musician for the Future project is, of course, receiving European funding and does not affect the domestic budget. In desperation, representatives of the youth orchestra have even written to Prime Minister Robert Golob and, although they have met with understanding, the bill in the package is still awaiting procedure. The young musicians from Ukraine are facing imminent eviction due to unpaid housing. It is catastrophic that the bureaucratic hurdles are so insurmountable in our country and that European funds cannot be released because there is no committed partner on our side. And the former Minister of the Interior, Aleš Hojs, spoke of the 200 000 refugees from Ukraine who could be given a place, and yet these few dozen young Ukrainian musicians are not being helped by the state.

Authors Melita Forstnerič Hajnšek
Date: Mon 20 Jun 2022
Link: Charity Concert at SNG Maribor: mature, passionate youthful music-making