Ukrainian pianist’s emotional concert in aid of war-torn home ends with a stirring rendition of Ukrainian National Anthem

By Ginny Ware   |   Totnes Reporter   |
Wednesday 29th June 2022 10:00 am
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Pianist Ivan Ovorun with Totnes Mayor, Cllr Emily Price, (right) and Totnes Town Councillor Victoria Trow ( )

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Mike Gibbons, the director of music for St Mary’s Church, Totnes and St John’s Church, Bridgetown, reviews the recent concert by pianist Ivan Hovorun

St Mary’s Church, Totnes is no stranger to concerts.

It’s a venue for an increasingly wide range of events and is a major base for festivals, recitals as well as church music as shown by the recent weekend that started with the Sea Change Festival playing fifteen gigs over the weekend, followed by a complete contrast by a classical piano recital the following day.

And what a recital in such a good cause.

The Ukrainian tragedy has displaced millions of people, many of them specialists in their field.

Some, of course, were already spread out across the world and one such is Ivan Hovorun, a Ukrainian-born pianist who chose to study in England back in 2004 and has made his base Manchester whilst playing and broadcasting all over the world especially in his native country and the UK.

Ivan came to Totnes to give one of the series of concerts promoted by the Friends of St Mary’s, Totnes to raise funds for the maintenance and restoration of the parish church and for the Ukrainian cause.

It was a concert of immense achievement and much emotion.

For starters, it was one of the most technically proficient and contrasting piano recitals in recent history in St Mary’s and, sadly, overlaid with emotion because of the Ukrainian war and personal tragedies.

Ivan relayed the stories of his musical life and his experiences along with the musical context of his performances which concluded with a stirring and deep rendition of the Ukrainian national anthem.

The piano pieces on display to well over one hundred concertgoers began with Beethoven’s much-loved and well-known ‘Moonlight’ Sonata followed by a Chopin ‘Nocturne’ which displayed the typical depths you’d expect from that composer.

The Mendelssohn piece that followed has an interesting story to it as it was featured in the last piano recital given by the composer in 1847 before his sad early death and took place at a church in Manchester.

Ivan sought out that church on his arrival to study in the city at the Royal Northern School of Music despite it’s ruined and dangerous state.

It clearly carries much significance for him.

The second half began with a diversion into another mid-19th century composer who, like Mendelssohn, is very much in the ‘I’m a successor to Beethoven’ mode, Schumann’s ‘Kreisleriana’ and the concert finished with one of those typical displays of pianistic fireworks you expect from Liszt in his ‘Funerailles’ which almost blew the lid off the church grand piano!

An absolutely splendid evening’s music enjoyed by a great gathering of Totnesians and beyond, Ivan Hovorun will undoubtedly be returning for a future concert hosted by The Friends of St Mary’s.

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