Concert for Ukraine to raise funds through beautiful music

— Created May 11, 2022 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

Two Whidbey Island musicians are putting their musical gifts to work Saturday to raise money for refugees of the war in Ukraine.

Tekla Cunningham and Sheila Weidendorf will perform their concert for Ukraine at 4 p.m. Saturday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Freeland. Admission is by donation and all funds will be donated to the International Rescue Committee ( and World Central Kitchen (

“Sheila and I wanted to do something to help raise funds, obviously, for the horrible situation in Ukraine and we thought this would be a beautiful way to do it,” said Cunningham, violinist and founder of the Whidbey Island Music Festival. “We thought we’d share it with the public and come together as a community. I think sometimes it feels harder as individuals to make a difference and making a gesture of solidarity and support gives people a feeling of community and togetherness.”

Weidendorf, a pianist, said it makes sense to use music as a way to help raise money for Ukrainian refugees.

“Music is always for the greater good,” she told Whidbey Weekly via email. “It can be a personal expression, yes, but more. It is a kind of communing and gathering in the name of goodness, truth and beauty. These are fundamental to humanity and not frivolous ‘extras.’ To offer what we love for the sake of helping a specific people – to do what we can to alleviate suffering in this particular context – is a blessing to us. There are so many ways in which I cannot help or heal this world. But each of us has our gifts and graces that can be offered up for others. This is a significant source of joy for me.”

The two are doing an encore performance of “Between Heaven and Earth: A Year with Brahms,” which they debuted last year during the Whidbey Island Music Festival. At that time, the pair had spent more than a year during the COVID-induced shutdowns working on the sonatas. They have continued playing these pieces together and said the music has continued to evolve and grow.

“We continue to work on them and refine them,” Cunningham said. “It’s been an ongoing development. It’s the same music, but it’s grown even more.”

“It is rare for performing musicians to spend a truly long time with repertoire—we are so accustomed to concert after concert after concert, learning repertoire quickly, sharing it, then on to the next program,” said Weidendorf. “That can be exhilarating! But to steep oneself in a set of pieces for a long time, to gestate along with them, is a truly remarkable experience. We never stop discovering things in the music, and in ourselves as we meet the music.”

Cunningham said she knows the importance helping to support Ukrainian refugees’ survival, but she hopes this concert will provide nourishment to the spirit, as well.

“A lot of people have been lonely and disconnected during the pandemic,” she said. “I think music can help heal; everyone is in the same space, it’s a shared experience. In the modern world, there’s a lot of running around. When we come together to listen to music, in a way, time stops. We can feel things we might not feel in day-to-day life. There’s a space for exploration that can be very connecting.”

Bringing people together to enjoy an afternoon of music for a good cause is something Cunningham and Weidendorf hope will help draw an audience and enliven the listeners’ spirit of generosity.

“If we could raise $5,000, I would be thrilled, but anything we can do to help is a good thing,” Cunningham said. “We have one world we share, we’re all part of the human family. This is a way of extending that fellowship and care to a place that really needs it now. We invite people to come and have a moment of peace and beauty, a moment of community; if people are moved to take that feeling and share what they can as they are able to share, that would be great.”

“Just come,” Weidendorf encouraged. “You don’t need to ‘know’ anything about classical music, or about Brahms. Just come and sit and breathe and let yourself be transported to the ends of the earth, and to the rich inner recesses of your own experience. It is simply a supreme honor to play this music, and to bring it to the people of Whidbey Island and to do so for such a worthy cause.”

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