‘MY COUNTRY IS BURNING’ Alina Bzhezhinska and guests, Concert For Ukraine
(Symphony Hall, Birmingham, 26 August 2022. Closing event of B:Jazz Festival. Photo-Essay by John Watson)
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John Watson went to hear, see and photograph virtuoso harpist Alina Bzhezhinska and her guests in rehearsal and in concert. Their concert in Symphony Hall in Birmingham brought the second B:Jazz Festival to a moving and often thrilling climax. The concert also raised money for her brutalised birthplace, Ukraine. Link to the fundraiser below.
As Alina has written: “My country is burning. As a native Ukrainian and a human being I cannot be silent. I wish I could go and fight alongside my family who are all in the resistance, but I have to stay where I am and use my music as my weapon.”
I was delighted to be invited by LondonJazzNews to create a photo essay of the rehearsals and concert, which was organised and curated by Alex Carr, recently appointed as Programmer and Talent Developer at B:Jazz. All the profits from ticket and merchandise sales going to help projects in Ukraine. My aim as a photographer was to capture the moments of intensity – the kind of positive anger that perhaps only music can convey over what is happening to Ukraine – along with the many moments of joy that are always to be found in any Alina performance.
In this picture of Alina’s harp, I tried to capture the strings moving, to evoke their shimmering sound.
With her funky HipHarp Collective quartet came a host of special guests: Glaswegian trombonist, singer and hip-hop artist Noushy, Birmingham saxophonist and flautist Xhosa Cole (above) , and singer/hip-hop artist NeONE the Wonderer with his own band. I caught Xhosa Cole in close-up, in the hope that the “tight” shot would convey the intimacy of his tone.
The HipHarp Collective is completed by bassist Mikele MonTolli, percussionist Joel Prime and drummer Adam Texeira. Outstanding pieces included a solo harp tribute to Alina’s hero Alice Coltrane, and a rocking “Afro Blue” with vocals from trombonist/ singer/ hip-hop specialist Noushy (Anoushka Nanguy), above.
Here Alina seems to be slapping the strings in anger. We also heard harp sounds of passion, of sympathy and of great beauty.
Her T-shirt proclaimed: “Make Music, Not War” . . . and a Ukrainian flag (above) was symbolically draped over her monitor.
DONATIONS: HipHarp Collective Ukraine Donate Page