Watch the video: A powerful message of hope and strength through music. Description written by Music Teacher, Ms. Elizabeth Mars…

Written by on April 13, 2022

Watch the video: A powerful message of hope and strength through music. Description written by Music Teacher, Ms. Elizabeth Mars…

When I became aware of the invasion of Ukraine, my first thought was: “What can we do to help?” The usual way of donations of money and humanitarian supplies is wonderful, and I, like many, have participated in both. 

As musicians, we get to display emotions through notes, rhythms, and harmonies (and so much more). As singers, we get an additional opportunity to use words to tell the story. As a teacher, I teach my students to honor international languages and cultures through their traditional tunes and original language. 

Watching as this current situation developed, I realized that we have never had the opportunity to perform in Ukrainian. My students had probably not heard the language spoken until it was on the news in February. That became my idea: musicians can create awareness — that is one of our jobs. We will sing a Ukrainian song in its original language. I saw a recording of the Metropolitan Opera Chorus performing the Ukrainian National Anthem, and I became inspired. 

The Ukrainian National Anthem is very powerful, but I wanted to do something different because I knew there are so many other songs we all needed to hear. I decided to contact the School of Ukrainian Studies in Watervliet, NY. Mariana Fedchyshyn was kind enough to email me back. 

She suggested that instead of the National Anthem, we sing the Spiritual Anthem of Ukraine — called “Prayer for Ukraine” (Molytva za Ukrayinu). In that country, this is usually sung at major national functions, and as a closing hymn for church services. It’s not commonly done in our country. She sent me a copy of the song, with the lyrics in Cyrillic, a link to the words transliterated into the Roman alphabet, and the English translation. She also sent some great Ukrainian performances on YouTube. Unfortunately, neither of us could find the Roman alphabet on a written piece of music, so, I sat down, listened to the Youtube examples, used the words provided to me, and wrote out the song, syllable by syllable. 

Our concert was coming up in the next couple of weeks, so we needed to learn the song quickly. Mariana provided us with an audio file of her pronouncing the words. We learned it as best we could, and she came into our class to help us with any further corrections. She told us how grateful the Ukrainian community was to see schools supporting the people of her country. She told us we sounded like a Ukrainian choir, so the students were very pleased. 

The other choral teacher in our school, Brad Gregg, told me that his students were also interested in participating in the performance, so he sat in on Mariana’s visit to our class. Brad worked with his choir, and they all learned the song. 

The Shenendehowa High School East Concert Choir, Choraliers, and Mostly A Cappella performed Prayer for Ukraine in concert for our parents, friends, and some members of the Ukrainian community at the end of March. We invited Mariana to come up to sing it with us. 

We hope a recording of our support reaches the people of Ukraine, and that our honor of singing this song in Ukrainian, and our knowledge of the meaning of the words is felt by those listening. 


This is the speech a student will give out before we perform: “The poem this song is based on was written by Olexandr Konysky in 1885 when the use of the Ukrainian language was suppressed.  This song is used as a spiritual anthem of Ukraine. In our choirs, we sing songs in many languages but we haven’t ever had the opportunity to sing in Ukrainian. We thank Mariana Fedchyshyn for taking the time to teach us how to pronounce the lyrics the best we can and tell us the meaning of the words. We are honored to have the opportunity to do this. We hope our education of this language and culture will make a difference. 

We offer our support and peace to the 10,000,000 refugees and displaced people of Ukraine. We are so inspired by their courage. We hope they can hear us. 

This is a translation of one verse of the lyrics:

“With learning and knowledge enlighten

Us, your children small,

In love pure and everlasting

Let us, oh Lord, grow.”

To our Ukrainian friends: We send you hope, we send you peace. We send you love, and we send you this prayer.