By Janos Gereben
Special to The Examiner
On Monday, three weeks before Frederica “Flicka” von Stade turns 77, she will be at the center of a big crowd in San Francisco’s Congregation Sherith Israel, doing what she has done all her life: helping others.
The world-renowned mezzo-soprano has always found time between engagements at the Metropolitan and opera houses throughout Europe to mentor young singers in the Bay Area and create or support school programs for underprivileged students.
This time, she will be at the Concert of Compassion benefit that’s expected to raise thousands of dollars to aid people in Ukraine, under attack by Russian armed forces for the past two months.
“It breaks my heart every morning to read of more suffering for the Ukrainian people,” von Stade said. “While inspired by their courage and the incredible leadership of President Zelensky, there is no way to not ache for the people of Ukraine.”
“I also ache for my colleagues who have been sanctioned into silence. We need music more than ever, and raising one’s voice is a very powerful weapon against hatred and sorrow. I am so grateful to be asked to raise my voice in solidarity with these amazing people, and I’d give anything to have a blanket of peace fall over them.”
Von Stade, with her frequent collaborator, pianist and composer Jake Heggie, and many prominent musicians are taking part in the benefit, raising funds for three vital organizations aiding Ukraine: HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), World Central Kitchen and Nova Ukraine.
Organizers are quoting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: “Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos. They sing to the wounded in hospitals, even to those who can’t hear them. But the music will break through anyway.”
Jonathan Dimmock, concert organist and founder of The Resonance Project, which produces the event, expressed the grief and frustration widespread in the community over the most destructive war in Europe since World War II:
“As artists, we feel a deep pain because of the suffering of Ukrainians. Ukraine has been the mother of countless significant artists who have informed our lives and molded my own artistry. We had to do something that could make a significant difference to help the refugees affected by this senseless and horrific war.”
Tickets for the Concert of Compassion are now on sale, ranging from $40 to $100. Diane B. Wilsey is serving as the lead underwriter. Those who cannot attend the concert but wish to contribute may do so at The Resonance Project’s donation site where 100% of all funds will be earmarked for the three charities.
Nicole Paiement will conduct musicians from the San Francisco Symphony and other local organizations, cellist Jeffrey Zeigler will perform a new work by Mark Adamo. Participants include members of the Artists’ Vocal Ensemble, The Bay Brass, Orthodox Bells authority Victor Avdienko, Ukrainian soprano Alina Ilchuk, baritone Eugene Brancoveanu, bass Matt Boehler and other artists.
Heggie said: “My heart is shattered, horrified and angered by the senseless, brutal violence against the Ukrainian people, so I am immensely grateful to join forces with my Bay Area colleagues — people of many ancestries, backgrounds and histories — to sing out in support of Ukraine.
“We cannot stand by in silence while such atrocities are committed. The truth, unity, resonance and powerful vibration of music can bring us together in community like nothing else. Flicka and I will be there.”
With planning still in process, organizers say the music of the evening will include works by Adamo, Sam Adams, Samuel Barber, Claude Debussy, Victoria Fraser, Morten Lauridsen, Missy Mazzoli, Francis Poulenc and Michael Tilson Thomas (whose family is from Ukraine), along with Ukrainian composers Vasyl Barvinsky, Dmitri Bortniansky, Lesia Dychko, Mykola Lysenko, Maxim Shalygin, Valentin Silvestrov, Myroslav Skoryk and Vladimir Zubitsky.
Ukrainian Consul General to San Francisco Dmytro Kushneruk and other officials will address the meeting; Rabbi Jessica Zimmerman-Graf is expected to welcome participants on behalf of Sherith Israel.
Following the 90-minute concert, there will be a complimentary reception and exhibition showcasing 60 contemporary Ukrainian works of art, courtesy of noted Ukrainian-Russian art collector Alex Miretsky.