HENRICO COUNTY, Va -- A sweet, peaceful melody filled Regency Square in Henrico County on Sunday afternoon. But the beautiful sound was a stark contrast to the reason why it was being played. The Richmond Concert Band opened their first performance of the year at the shopping center with a hymn called "Prayer for Ukraine."
“It was written in the late 1800s and has actually been a traditional Ukrainian hymn ever since that time," band's librarian Kathy Kreutzer said. "Even though we want people to come and relax and enjoy the music, we also try to commemorate events that are occurring in the world."
Members of the band said it was a way for them to pay their respects to a country devastated by war.
“We just thought it was just a little tribute to say, 'Hey, we care,'" clarinet player Melissa Sleeth said. "And as a community, we're looking out for another community. If we can do our part, just make people aware of what's going on somewhere else, then that's a great thing.”
The band joined choirs, symphonies, and bands around the globe that have played the hymn in recent weeks as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine.
"Music is universal, and I think it's a way that musicians around the world can reach out," Kreutzer said. "We've seen images of musicians in Ukraine performing solo in front of ruins, and the Ukrainian national anthem and the Hymn For Ukraine have both been performed."
Percussionist Stan Steeley echoed the sentiment.
“I think everybody is really trying to contribute musically as we can to them, and the name 'Prayer for Ukraine,' it kind of says at all," Steeley said.
Numerous business owners across the area have also stepped up to help host fundraisers and solidarity events to benefit Ukrainians.
The efforts come as the United States plans to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, and Senator Mark Warner (D - Virginia) hopes Virginia will be a part of the efforts.
Warner pointed to the fact that Fort Lee and Fort Pickett recently housed thousands of refugees from Afghanistan.
“I would hope, just as we welcomed Afghan refugees, that we would welcome Ukrainians," Sen. Warner said.
Meanwhile, Richmond musicians said they'll continue to lift up Ukrainians during a time of need.
“It's really a humanitarian thing," Steeley said. "And it's really about people.”
"Saying a little prayer for these people that are having a really rough time right now," said Sleeth.
To learn more about the Richmond Concert Band, visit their website.