Peace Concert to feature Violin of Hope

Five years after Sallie Downs and Dianne Mooney produced a series of events in Birmingham for the Violins of Hope, they are producing a Peace Concert to close the International Peace Conference being held in Birmingham from May 4 to 6.

Downs said she felt the concert “should be more than a tribute to peace, it should affect peace; and what would make it meaningful is to serve others who are amid the greatest struggle of their lives for peace.”

The concert, on May 6 at 7 p.m. at the Alys Stephens Center, will be a benefit for Ukrainian refugees.

The concert will be emceed by comedian Chris Davis with a wide range of local and regional talent. A highlight will be Alexander Skowronski, a teenage son of Polish emigres who has been playing violin since the age of three, performing on the Violin of Hope that is housed at the Alabama Holocaust Education Center.

The Violins of Hope belonged to Jews who wound up in concentration camps during the Holocaust. Some of the musicians survived, most did not, but luthier Amnon Weinstein in Tel Aviv is preserving the instruments to give voice to those whose voices were silenced.

“Alabama music maker” Belinda George Peoples will be featured, along with Jon Campbell, lead singer of Black Jacket Symphony, and his wife, performer and artistic director Kristen Campbell, and Ukrainian vocalist Iryna Samara.

There will also be performances by the Birmingham Boys Choir, the New Hope Baptist Church Mass Choir, the Chamber Ensemble of the Birmingham-Southern College Hilltop Singers, and the Make It Happen Youth Ensemble.

Alabama Poet Laureate Ashley Jones will present a poem written for the occasion.

Mooney said “the concert features world class talent and music appealing to all. I’ve loved working on this, you’ll love it.”

Downs said “Birmingham can make a real difference in Ukraine. The only thing that could make the concert better is a theatre packed with enthusiastic music lovers uniting for a good cause.”

She added that those who are unable to attend can provide financial support to the effort, and to spread the word.

The funds will go to Rotary International Foundation for Ukraine and Fortuna Clinical Foundation for Ukraine, “to see that the funds we raise will be used efficiently and effectively for humanitarian relief on the ground in Ukraine,” Downs said.

Fortuna Clinical Foundation is an Alabama based non-profit charitable and educational corporation. Within weeks of the start of the Russian war against Ukraine, the foundation established a new branch to help Ukrainians affected by the war, providing humanitarian relief for the wounded, children, and fleeing refugees.

The all-volunteer organization has established two refugee centers for children on the front lines, humanitarian relief for the elderly distributed by Kharkiv National University of Internal Affairs, supports a new child and single mother refugee center in Western Ukraine, supplies Ukrainian language children’s books to refugees in Poland, supports a psychological center in Vilnohirsk tand provides medical equipment for the wounded through The Rehabilitation Center in Ivano-Frankivsk.

Tickets are $25 and are available here, and additional donations are welcome.