Courtesy of St. Thomas More Chapel

On March 16 and 20 at 7 p.m., the St. Thomas More Chapel will hold two “Vigil for Peace” benefit concerts. The first will be for Yale students and faculty, and the second will be open to the public. Both concerts will also be streamed online. 

Karolina Wojteczko MUS ’20, who has served as STM’s interim music director since last October, came up with the idea for the concerts. Wojteczko grew up on the far northeastern border of Poland, which was home to various cross-cultural communities — including Polish, Ukrainian and Russian populations. She will perform all the pieces on the program — which range from songs telling of the Crucifixion of Jesus to traditional Ukrainian songs — accompanied by piano, violin, cello and organ. The concert is free, but attendees will be asked to donate if they are able. Donations will go to Polish organizations providing support to Ukraine.

“Besides sending packages of clothing or food, I thought to myself, what else can I actually do [for Ukraine],” Wojteczko said. “Then, I thought the only thing that I’ve been doing my whole life is singing.” 

Wojteczko will perform from the choir loft in the back of the church, meaning audience members will not be able to see her. The lights will be dimmed and the church will instead have candle lights on the altar. The cross at the middle of the altar will be lit up from the back. According to Wojteczko, the shadow of a dove will be reflected on the fingers of Jesus on the cross such that it appears to be in flight.

Violinist Kate Arndt MUS ’26, who will be performing at the March 20 concert, said a setting in which the performers are out of sight yet their music is the “focal point” will hopefully inspire a meditative quality to the concerts.

“It’s about creating an environment where people can feel at peace,” Arndt said. “They can feel welcomed and able to reflect on what’s going on. Hopefully it will be very effective and very beautiful.”

Wojteczko, whose family still lives in Poland near the Russian border, organized the musical program. The concert will open with a recently recovered 15th century Ukrainian chant of the “Kyrie Eleison” or “Lord have mercy” prayer and proceed with “Erbarme Dich, mein Gott” from the St. Matthew Passion and “O Mensch, bewein’ dein’ Sünde gross” by Johann Sebastian Bach. Three Samuel Barber pieces will then follow — “Sure on This Shining Night”, “St. Ita’s Vision” and “The Crucifixion”. 

These pieces will be followed by “Meditation” from the opera “Thais” by Jules Massenet, which tells the story of the Virgin Mary observing her son’s acceptance of his death sentence, along with “Pie Jesu” from Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem. 

The second part of the concert will feature several Ukrainian songs. According to Wojteczko, she planned a section of the concert devoted entirely to the Virgin Mary because she holds special significance to the Ukrainian people. The section will include “Ave Maria,” “The Sorrowful Mother” — which speaks from Mary’s point of view on her feelings about giving up her only son — and “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” about the son Jesus Christ reflecting on leaving behind his mother. The program will conclude with “O Rest in the Lord” from Elijah by Felix Mendelssohn, which is “a smoother and more hopeful note” for Wojteczko.

“The aim of the concert is to bring Yale and the New Haven community together for an evening of prayer and fundraising, with all donations going to support the immediate needs of Ukrainian refugees,” said Katie Painter ’23, chair of the STM Undergraduate Council’s “Act” Committee. “It promises to be a very beautiful expression of solidarity with Ukraine and our collective hope for peace!”

St. Thomas More Chapel is located at 268 Park St.

Gamze covers music news for the Arts desk and writes for the WKND. She is a sophomore in Pauli Murray majoring in psychology and humanities.