Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra kicks off tour at Damrosch Park in Lincoln Center

NEW YORK (WABC) — The Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra kicked off the first American show of their international tour with a free performance in Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center.

Under the peaceful city sky Thursday night in New York City, the music was a reminder that war rages on in Ukraine.

It was a reminder that while harmony fills the night, atrocities continue half a world away.

The musicians are artists of resistance and their music is their ammunition.

Thursday was proof culture is the soul of Ukraine.

The newly formed group of 75 musicians includes recent Ukrainian refugees.

They heard the sounds of war but on Thursday night, they offered a melody of hope and brought with them a message of resilience.

“These musicians are kind of soldiers, warriors of culture. Fighting Putin on the cultural front,” Metropolitan General Manager Peter Gelb said.

The free performance was brought together by the Metropolitan Opera and the Polish National Opera to show solidarity with Ukraine.

With support from the Ukrainian government, male musicians were allowed to put down their firearms and take up their instruments.

For Gelb, it was personal. The driver, Keri-Lynn Wilson, is his wife.

“Her great grandparents came from Ukraine and were part of the migration that settled the plains of Canada in Winnipeg,” Gelb said.

When the tour is over, several members of the orchestra will return to Ukraine to serve in the military.

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