First Presbyterian Church-Midtown's worship and arts director on 'A benefit concert for Ukraine'

Benefit concert for Ukraine on Friday, Sept. 16, at First Presbyterian Church in Midtown. (Courtesy of Rand Lines)

In the nearly seven months since Russia invaded Ukraine, at least 12 million people have fled their homes in Ukraine seeking refuge from a senseless war.  Several Atlanta music organizations have come together to create a benefit concert for Ukraine on Friday, Sept. 16, at First Presbyterian Church in Midtown. 

“City Lights” host Lois Reitzes was joined via Zoom by organist Jens Korndörfer, director of worship and the arts, and Natalya Perullo, a member of First Presbyterian Church Congregation, to talk more about the event. 

Interview highlights:

A full program of Atlanta’s best classical and chamber players:

“The concert will open by the Georgia State University Singers, the top choir of Georgia State University, conducted by Dr. Deanna Joseph. Then we will have the Vega String Quartet, Emory’s quartet in residence. They have been guests at First Presbyterian many times; they’re an amazing group,” said Korndörfer. “We will have the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Brass Quintet, who are going to contribute a couple of really amazing arrangements of Ukrainian and American music. And then we will have a bandura player, which is a traditional Ukrainian instrument. It’s actually a Ukrainian [Olena Kovban] who’s going to play that.”

He went on, “Then finally, we will also have one of my students, Victoria Shorokhova, who’s going to play, and she’s actually from Russia. And I remember when this invasion happened, the Russian invasion, she came to me and said she wants to do something. She wants to help Ukraine. She wants to show that not everybody in Russia agrees with what Putin is doing.”

Music to inspire compassion and hope:

“The Georgia State University singers are going to, among other things, perform Stephen Foster’s ‘Hard Times Come Again No More,’ which was a very popular song in the 19th century, and the… song asks those that are fortunate to consider the plight of the less fortunate. So I think it’s very appropriate, given the topic of this concert,” said Korndörfer. “Then the Vega Quartet is going to play Beethoven’s ‘Quartet in F minor,’ a very robust and stirring piece; two movements from this amazing work. The brass quintet is going to play Prokofiev, who actually was born in Ukraine – ‘The Dance of the Knights’ from ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ and then… the Ukrainian folk song, ‘Schedryk.'”

Perullo added, “It’s about the swallow bird, ‘lastivka,’ it’s called in Ukrainian… It’s just a, a symbol of hope, and my mom would always talk about every holiday – and it wasn’t just on holidays, but it’s just every event – everything was centered around song and singing and music, and this was just one of those songs that was full of hope, and a symbol of hope.”

How Natalya Perullo reacted to the news of Russia’s invasion:

“There were just these rumors, and it was hard to tell what was true or not. And I even remember talking about it with my parents, and mom’s reaction was like, ‘No, it’s not gonna happen. They wouldn’t do that,'” recounted Perullo. “I think a lot of people, despite the evidence or intelligence that we had that this was going to happen, I think a lot of people were in complete disbelief. I wasn’t shocked. I thought, ‘Of course. Of course, this is happening.'”

She continued, “We still have family in Ukraine, and most of our family is on the West coast, and we reached out to them and offered support, offered to host them, offered to help them in any way. And our family has not left yet. They are all there, and we’ve been supporting them as much as we could, but they are very insistent that ‘This is home. This is where we need to be, and this is where we’re needed right now.’ And so they’re involved, and all of them are involved in various ways in the war effort.”

The First Presbyterian Church will host “A Benefit Concert for Ukraine” on Sept. 16. Tickets and more information are available at