With a little help from their friends
In a difficulty year, Anna Azarova reflects on how music has enabled students from the British International School Ukraine to communicate and work with peers from around the world.
The significance of music
Music has always resided at the heart of BISU and its broader community, serving as an integral component of our curriculum, with students continuously participating in various national and international music events as well as showcasing their talents at BISU. Even the COVID-19 pandemic did not deter their spirits; instead, they pursued a range of musical initiatives online.
Undoubtedly, every school can attest to the significance of music in their culture. However, at BISU, it has held a particularly profound importance for everyone, especially since February 2022 and the invasion of our country. In times of adversity, music becomes an extraordinary tool inspiring, guiding, instilling hope, and fostering resilience.
Our last Chrsitmas show
Annually, our students from various age groups and teachers from both Kyiv and Dnipro schools would join forces to orchestrate an unforgettable Christmas and New Year show as a culmination of the year. The programme would traditionally include singing, acting, playing musical instruments, performing, and dancing. The all-school performance held in December 2021, occurred just two months prior to the outbreak of war. It was our final “physical” gathering of its kind.
Language of global support
However, we have been truly uplifted by the overwhelming support and encouragement we have received and continue to receive from our partners, a multitude of international organisations, and schools across the globe. It was the musical messages that resonated the most, profoundly touching our hearts.
In a remarkable display of solidarity, John Bunyan Primary School in Essex expressed their support for BISU and our Head, Mr. Cole, through a spirited rendition of “We Are Unstoppable, a Better World Is Possible.” On World Book Day, they recorded the song while donning costumes of their beloved book characters. Among them was the famed Harry Potter, who valiantly battled against the forces of darkness.
In a subtle musical expression, the community at King’s Worcester in the UK conveyed their heartfelt love and prayers to Ukraine and BISU. On 2 March 2022, inside Worcester Cathedral, their choir filled the air with the enchanting melody of Shchedryk. This piece, known worldwide as “Carol of the Bells,” originates from traditional Ukrainian folk chants and was arranged by the Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych in 1916. Shchedryk doesn’t just have a wonderful tune; it also serves as one of powerful emblems, symbolising Ukraine’s identity.
Music stands as a formidable instrument to bolster and express gratitude to those who are courageously risking their lives to safeguard our country and uphold human values worldwide. Last year Liudmyla, a music teacher at BISU Dnipro, participated in the important social project “Inspire!” This initiative brought together Ukrainian musicians, singers, and actors who would visit military bases to perform for the brave Ukrainian troops.
Despite numerous extraordinary challenges, BISU successfully wrapped up the 2022 academic year. Though scattered across various countries on five continents, our students and teachers collaborated to craft an enchanting rendition of the song “Best Day of My Life.” It was reminiscent of the summer concerts we used to organise as a way to celebrate and reflect on the academic year that had passed.
Voices Around the World
Earlier this year, BISU participated in the international charity effort, Voices Around the World. It aims to demonstrate how young people from all over the globe can join together via music to make the world a less divided place.
Every year, the organisers compile a video that includes the voices of countless students from 65 nations singing a single song. The selected composition for this year’s event holds a symbolic title ‘With This Hope In My Heart’. Howard Jones, a legendary British musician, singer, and composer, wrote the composition just for the project.
From February to March, BISU students were practising the song under the guidance of a professional Ukrainian opera singer. The biggest challenge arose from gathering our children for rehearsals, which were regularly disrupted by air raids. Nonetheless, they demonstrated character and determination. Ultimately, they performed the song both online and within a professional studio. When organising the recording session, our primary concern was to ensure that the building was equipped with a bomb shelter…
On March 31st, with immense pride, we submitted our video to the organisers. Under ordinary circumstances, this would have presented a significant task for schools. Yet, given the additional obstacles our children encountered during this period, the challenge became even more formidable.
BISU sings together with the world
Two months later, the Voices Around The World team released a new general video featuring thousands of youngsters in schools around the world who came together as one voice to blast out an anthem for hope and peace. The young people of the world passionately called upon politicians to put an end to the madness of war and usher in an era of peace and harmony. Among the chorus of voices, the distinctive voice of our school could be heard.
Inspired by Eurovision
Then there was Eurovision! Since Ukraine made its debut in the song contest in 2003, Eurovision has held immense significance for our country. Over the span of two decades, the country has continuously showcased its prowess as a formidable contender in the contest. With numerous top 10 finishes, two runner-up positions, and three victories, we just love it!
Ukraine, the 2022 winner, was unable to host the 2023 competition because of the circumstances and Liverpool was selected to oversee the event on behalf of Ukraine after Sam Ryder, the UK’s entry from the previous year, finished in second place.
This year’s theme, “United By Music,” carries an eloquent message about the incredible power of music to connect people globally, foster unity in communities, and promote harmony, understanding, and cooperation. It also highlights the special partnership between Ukraine and the United Kingdom, which has become a safe haven for over 100,000 Ukrainians, myself included, who now call Great Britain their second home.
To pay tribute to the Eurovision song contest, BISU collaborated with Liverpool Life Sciences UTC and Global School Alliance to produce a compelling video that embodied the spirit of togetherness, optimism, and solidarity.
The cooperation between BISU, Liverpool Life Sciences UTC and Global School Alliance exemplifies how education and music can bring people together and facilitate positive change in the world. Sara Mallo, Language Hub Coordinator at Liverpool Life Sciences UTC said,
“In the spirit of the Eurovision mission to be “United by music”, let’s hope the world follows in the footsteps of John Lennon, and “Give peace a chance”.
The language of music surpasses boundaries and barriers, cultural, political, or linguistic. The music-driven initiatives enabled BISU students to communicate and work together with peers from around the world. They also served as a reminder that we were not alone in the face of immense challenges Ukraine is going through now.
Anna Azarova was born in Kyiv and was educated at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv and the London School of Journalism.
She is the Communications Lead at the British International School Ukraine.
All images kindly provided by BISU