AGAINST a backdrop of war, terror and loss in Ukraine has come a remarkable choir, celebrating the resilience of Ukrainian people and the power of music.

The Songs for Ukraine Chorus was set up by the Royal Opera House last year, for people displaced by the war to come together through music. The choir, made up of 130 people, including those who fled Ukraine after Russia’s invasion, gave its first performance at the Royal Opera House earlier this year. Performed for an audience of London’s Ukrainian community, it was a triumph.

Now the Songs for Ukraine Chorus is coming to Bradford Cathedral, for a spectacular Christmas concert.

The singers, alongside local Ukrainian choirs, primary school children and the Cathedral youth choir, will perform for an audience which will include members of the city’s significant Ukrainian population.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The concert will celebrate the resilience of the Ukrainian community The concert will celebrate the resilience of the Ukrainian community (Image: Veronika Ward)

The Songs for Ukraine Christmas Concert, a partnership between the Royal Opera House and Bradford Cathedral, will be the first time the choir has performed outside London.

The concert marks the start of a new creative partnership between the Royal Opera House and Bradford, leading up to its year as UK City of Culture in 2025.

The Christmas concert - described as “a day to celebrate the resilience of the Ukrainian community in the UK and around the world, recognise the power of music to bring people together, and revel in the holiday spirit” - will feature Christmas carols and traditional Ukrainian songs. Daria, member of the Songs for Ukraine Chorus, says: “Christmas for Ukrainians is such a special holiday. Christmas is always about family, but a lot of people in this Chorus don’t have family.

“But this choir has started to really feel like family for us, with such beautiful music. This project, it’s something I couldn’t imagine.”

Olha, another choir member, says: “Music cures. I really needed this kind of therapy. It helped me to find people in the same situation as me who have also experienced such difficult times and can unite with me. I feel a part of Ukraine in the Royal Opera House.

“This concert will be a chance to show how we celebrate Christmas at home. When we are with family, we gather around the table, we have Christmas dinner and sing carols. It’s our tradition.”

As UK City of Culture 2025, Bradford will deliver a creative programme throughout the year. As part of this, the Royal Opera House will collaborate with organisations including Bradford 2025, Bradford Council, Bradford Theatres, Kala Sangam and Born in Bradford, to inspire creativity in young people and communities through a range of events over the next three years. The Royal Opera House will bring some of its most successful initiatives, including its flagship Create & Sing, Create & Dance and Create & Design programmes, using ballet and opera to encourage creative confidence in schools.

Another programme rolling out in Bradford is Chance to Dance, the Royal Opera House’s talent development programme. Aimed at making ballet more accessible and diverse, it works with primary schools and dance schools to give children from all backgrounds the opportunity to learn ballet. Bradford will be the fifth city in the UK to join the programme.

Royal Opera House chief executive Alex Beard said: “We are hugely excited to be embarking on this new partnership with Bradford, which will see us work with a host of partners to place the arts at the heart of the community in the lead up to Bradford City of Culture 2025 and beyond. We believe the arts have the capacity to change lives, I hope this partnership and the many performances and activities that come out of it, alongside the work we will be doing with schools, will inspire imaginations across this great city over the years ahead.”

Jillian Barker, Director of Learning and Participation, said: “Against the backdrop of the terrible war in Ukraine, the Royal Opera House set up the Songs for Ukraine Chorus. The first performance, in March, was an incredibly moving experience and we’re proud to take their talents to Bradford, which itself has a large Ukrainian population. This begins a long-term partnership which we hope will go from strength-to-strength, inspiring creativity and bringing communities together.”

Revd Ned Lunn, Canon for Intercultural Mission and the Arts: said: “We are proud to be working with the Royal Opera House on this important concert, bringing hope in the midst of great trials and devastation. Bradford Cathedral has a vision to create a generous welcome to the world and stands as part of a long story of faith lived out by the diverse communities that make up Bradford.This faith, which has spread across the district, overflows with creativity and has stimulated a voracious curiosity that goes around the world. For these reasons we value our relationship with the local Ukrainian community, particularly the choirs who have performed here many times. This event gives us an opportunity to partner with them again, this time with our wonderful Grace Notes choir. We look forward to welcoming the Songs For Ukraine Chorus and Royal Opera House to Bradford for the first of many collaborations moving towards City of Culture 2025.”

* Songs for Ukraine Christmas Concert is at Bradford Cathedral on Sunday, December 10 at 3pm.