The concert hall took a direct hit during the first week the city was shelled.  Sandbags piled alongside the walls protected the stained glass windows of the former church, but the roof was punctured and the interior set ablaze.  With rockets landing in the quarter and water mains shattered, the fire burned unabated.  When the fighting ended days later, crews began to sift through debris.  Combing through the ashes, broken plaster, and fallen brickwork, the orchestra conductor located the thick bound volumes of old concert programs.  He dusted them off, smiling to himself.  Their history had been saved.  The roof and rows of charred seats could be replaced.  Fortunately, most of the musicians had taken their valuable instruments home with them.  Digging deeper, he found stacks of music stands, ash-covered but intact.  Beneath them, though singed and water-stained, sheets of music for the Friday concert were still legible.

Looking at the soiled pages, a thought came to him.  Three violinists lived within walking distance.  If they were home, if they had their instruments, and if he could contact them, they might be able to play.  The orchestra had not canceled a performance in forty-eight years.  As conductor, he had never missed a concert. It would be a haphazard orchestra for a haphazard audience.  A few violins would barely be heard over the distant explosions, sirens, and the barking of stray dogs.  But they could perform, their history maintained.

That late afternoon, with snow falling, two men and a woman in overcoats, played the Brahms violin concerto on the steps of the shattered concert hall.  A half-dozen shivering rescue workers clustered around a small fire listened, some closing their eyes.  A pair of reporters recorded the orchestra with their cell phones, broadcasting the performance to the refugees, the fighters, the relief workers, the traumatized, and the bedridden of Kiev.


Mark Connelly’s fiction has appeared in Indiana Review, Milwaukee Magazine, Cream City Review, The Ledge, Smoky Blue Arts and Literary Magazine, Change Seven, Light and Dark, 34th Parallel, The Chamber Magazine, Mobius Blvd., and Digital Papercut. In 2005 Texas Review Press published his novella Fifteen Minutes, which received the Clay Reynolds Prize. His most recent short story “That Forgotten Monday” appeared in The Chamber Magazine in October 2023 and was published in Möbius Blvd in December.


Mark Connelly

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