Over 350 people came to Bradford Cathedral on Sunday 10th December for ‘Songs for Ukraine Chorus’, a Christmas Concert collaboration with Royal Opera House.
The assembled audience included people from across the city, as well as invited guests from the world of the arts, culture and the city, including Members of Parliament, Bradford City of Culture 2025, and members of the Bradford City FC Community Foundation.
‘Songs for Ukraine’ is a creative exchange between the Royal Opera House and displaced Ukrainians produced by ROH Learning & Participation. The project has created a space for 150 Ukrainians to make music and connect with one another, and with the Royal Opera House. Beginning in September 2022, the project has continued to grow and evolve, with the group performing for the first time at the Royal Opera House in March 2023.
The concert featured the Songs for Ukraine Choir alongside, from Bradford, the Fiyalka and Dibrova choirs, as well as lay clerks from Bradford Cathedral and the Grace Notes, the Cathedral’s young community choir.
The programme included ancient pre-Christian carols to the well-loved “Carol of the Bells”. As is customary in Ukrainian song culture, this included “Kolyadka” which signifies the birth of Christ and “Shchedrivka” which brings wishes for well-being, a rich harvest, and family happiness.
The 75-minute long concert, conducted by Danny Parashchak, was split into five sections, each introduced with a reading. The Revd Ned Lunn, Canon for Intercultural Mission and the Arts, welcomed everyone to the Cathedral, before handing over to Jillian Barker, Director of Learning and Participation at the Royal Opera House:
“This afternoon we’re going to celebrate 1000 years of Ukrainian Christmas tradition – carols full of joy and wonder. Many of you may think of the Royal Opera House as a place in London where we perform world class ballet and opera – and we do – but we are so much more. We want to make the extraordinary happen for everyone. Let’s change the world, but we need to help change the world together.
“When the war started in Ukraine we paused, we asked ourselves – what can we do as a national institution?… we put out a call on social media for 50 singers – and 400 applied!
“[And now it] has become a world tour – and if you’re going to do a world tour, what better place to start than Bradford!
“This is the very start of the Royal Opera House’s three-year creative intervention with the wonderful Bradford City of Culture and we would like to extend huge thanks to the City of Culture team; the Bradford Ukrainian community who have made us so welcome at their centre; and to Bradford Cathedral for welcoming us and helping us organize today event.
“We will perform for you, to celebrate Christmas, and to demonstrate the way music can inspire hope.”
The concert began with the traditional piece ‘Oh, God’, before moving through a beautiful programme of music including ‘Clear Stars Covered the Sky’ (sung with the Grace Notes); ‘Silent Night’; and ‘Carol of the Bells’. The concert came to an end with ‘Auld Lang Syne’.
The concert followed earlier rehearsals held in the city, both in the Cathedral with the Grace Notes choir, and at the Bradford Ukrainian Club.
The Revd Ned Lunn, Canon for Intercultural Mission and the Arts, said:
“It was wonderful to welcome the Ukrainian choirs from the Royal Opera House and Bradford to join with our own Grace Notes choir for a poignant event of music and reflections.
“This beautiful and atmospheric concert showed off the great asset of Bradford Cathedral; not just the acoustics and atmosphere of the building but the warm and familial welcome of our volunteers and staff. It demonstrated the strength of our unique offer to the City of Culture 2025 as a place to host events of this nature and size.”
For more information on other Advent and Christmas services coming to Bradford Cathedral this year, as well as new videos, music recordings and much more, please visit bradfordcathedral.org.uk/advent-christmas or find out more on social media. You can find out more about the Royal Opera House on their website.