Concert raises funds for Ukrainian refugees

Adelina Oronova and Nazar Gora perform a spoken-word piece during Saturday’s benefit concert for Ukrainian refugees at Trinity Episcopal Church in Houghton. Garrett Neese photo

HOUGHTON — As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine neared four months, Trinity Episcopal Church in Houghton hosted a concert to benefit Ukrainians Saturday.

All proceeds from the concert went to Episcopal Migration Ministries, an agency that works with the government to resettle refugees in the United States.

As of Tuesday, there had been 7.3 million border crossings out of Ukraine since February, with about 2.2 million crossing back, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.

The church previously hosted a concert in January to help refugees from Afghanistan.

“At the end of that concert, we were asked by a number of people if we would do it again,” said John Austin, parish steward for the church. “I didn’t commit at the time, but in my mind, I thought, well, you know, there are going to be communities with need for it. And this space is a pretty good space for music, and it helps everybody.”

Dean and Bette Premo of White Water perform at a concert for Ukrainian refugees at Trinity Episcopal Church in Houghton Saturday. Garrett Neese photo

The eclectic mix of music spanned 500 years and several genres. Headliners Dean and Bette Premo of White Water played a 25-minute set, closing with Ed McCurdy’s “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream,” about a world where all countries declared an end to war.

White Water also donated all money from CDs sold at the concert. The Premos have Ukrainian friends in Iron County who traveled back to Kiev last December to help one of their mothers.

“They brought back with them, in Alex’s pocket, a different kind of refugee — a handful of heirloom tomato seeds, and cabbage seeds from his mom,” Dean Premo said. “They’re now taking root here and will thrive.”

Jared Anderson, chair of Michigan Technological University’s Visual and Performing Arts department, performed songs by Stephen Lias and Stephen Sondheim, as well as Rodgers and Hammerstein’s anti-bigotry number “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.”

Members of the Keweenaw Symphony also performed solo pieces on flute and piano.

Adelina Oronova and Nazar Gora, Ukrainian Ph.D. students at Michigan Technological University and co-founders of Yoopers for Ukraine, recited “A Bridge Used to Be There, Someone Recalled,” by Ukrainian poet Serhiy Zhadan. Oronova read in English, while Gora read in Ukrainian, punctuated by Debussy interludes played by flautist Eleanor McKinney.

For the finale, audience members received a quick instruction on the Ukrainian national anthem, which they all sang together.

Austin was pleased by the music and the community engagement. But the part he’s happiest about is doing “real good for real people.”

“I do get cranky sometimes about how we give thoughts and prayers and raise awareness,” he said. “For the family in Ukraine, they don’t need awareness. They need a roof over their heads and something to eat, and some hope that the world will not always be like this.”

Austin hopes to be able to do another concert, most likely in the winter.

“This is something we’re doing in response,” he said. “The world has not failed to give us things to respond to.”

Emily Malarchick of Calumet came to see her husband Austin Malarchick, who sang System of a Down’s “Soldier Side,” a song about the toll war takes on soldiers and the families left behind. She appreciated the concert.

“We’re not super-close to Ukraine, so I think it was a beautiful gesture to show our support,”she said.


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