Prayer for Ukraine

Irina Voloshina honors her country with music

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

A native of Odessa, Ukraine, violinist Irina Voloshina has watched Russia decimate her country. 

She will honor Ukraine and its fight against evil during the Freedom Philharmonic’s debut concert, “Freedom for All!,” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, October 29, at Pasadena Civic Auditorium. The 70-plus musicians will be led by music director and principal conductor Maestro Clyde Mitchell.

The second half’s centerpiece is the Ukrainian Anthem & Prayer, featuring concertmaster Voloshina. It is joined by Verdi’s Overture to “Nabucco” conducted by Ruth Orellana-Wheeler and “Va, pensiero” from “Nabucco” conducted by Orellana-Wheeler and the SoCAL Chorale, conducted by its director, Marya Basaraba.

The first half will begin with Strauss’ “Sunrise” (theme for “2001: A Space Odyssey”), followed by Orff’s “O, Fortuna” from “Carmina Burana,” Skoryk’s “Melodie” featuring associate conductor Ruth Orellana-Wheeler, Foster’s “The Prayer” with mezzo-soprano Anna Pflieger and lyric tenor Barry Johannson, and Schönberg’s “Bring Him Home” from “Les Misérables” with Johansson.

“Freedom for All” continues with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Masquerade” from “Phantom of the Opera,” Dvořák’s “Song to the Moon” from “Rusalka” featuring soprano Erin Wood, Verdi’s “Anvil Chorus” and “Stride la Vampa” from “Il trovatore” featuring Pflieger, Gounod’s “Funeral March of a Marionette,” Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” from “Turandot” featuring tenor Timothy Gonzales, and “Te Deum” from “Tosca” with baritone Ben Lowe.

Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” from the 9th Symphony closes the concert.

Longtime friends, performer Barry Johansson and Chris Beskar, CEO of Stavatti Aerospace, founded the nonprofit Freedom Orchestra to share their love of music. Their dream includes starting a youth orchestra. 

Voloshina has lived in Altadena for 12 years and made news when she and her Melodia Mariposa performed in her driveway during the COVID-19 quarantine. On July 24, 2021, she received the Congressional Leadership Award: Hometown Heroes of the Pandemic for outstanding contributions to the people of the 27th Congressional District.

The Freedom Philharmonic is just as special.

“I’m excited because every time something is created, it’s exciting,” Voloshina says. “The pandemic has gone on for a long time. All of our concerts were canceled, and we were devastated. We didn’t work at all. It was pretty crazy time, and that’s when I decided to perform on my driveway. I did 65 concerts. We missed our performances so much. Then I heard about this orchestra. I think it’s beautiful.” 

For other shows, she plays fundraising concerts for Ukraine, helping the only way she says she can. 

“I used to play with the philharmonic in Odessa,” she says. “When the war started, I thought, ‘How can I help?’ You feel so helpless. You want to help but how do you help?

“My friends are fine. At one point, they were in a really bad situation and needed to help. I play violin. I didn’t know how to raise money. I could donate some, but it’s not that much.”

She learned about GoFundMe and other fundraising platforms. She held a benefit concert for Ukraine at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Altadena in August with Melodia Mariposa.

She has raised $13,000 for the Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra to travel to Musikfest Berlin via bus to the Republic of Moldova and then plane to Berlin. 

“They didn’t have money to stay in the hotel,” she says. “They couldn’t fly because of the war. They asked if I would pay for the hotel, which was about $5,500. It was such a nice break for them to leave that horrible place. They were just crying. That was so touching. It is a very emotional subject. I can’t even say how I feel.” 

The war and year have been trying to Voloshina. Her mother died in February, and she visited the cemetery the first day of the war. 

“I could not even imagine how she would feel,” Voloshina says. 

“Her two sisters are still in Ukraine. I’m helping their family, too. I never even met them. I left the country when they were 3, and now they have kids. They wanted me to help them find a sponsor. They’re safe now in England.”

Voloshina’s resume is impressive. She moved to the United States in 1993 without knowing English. She has performed on more than 600 films scores including those by John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner and Hans Zimmer, to name a few. She performed for “American Idol” and the “MTV Music Awards” and was a member of the Academy Awards orchestra. She has joined the Pasadena Symphony and Pops Orchestra.

“Every time I perform for John Williams, it’s a historic moment,” she says. “I have to pinch myself. It’s magic, magic every time I’m there. He is absolutely amazing. Everybody has such a huge respect for him. When the actors come, it’s really special.”

Freedom Philharmonic

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, October 29

WHERE: Pasadena Civic Auditorium, 300 E. Green Street, Pasadena

COST: Tickets start at $32

INFO: or