First Congregational Church holds benefit concert for Ohio train derailment victims

May 14, 2023

East Palestine, Ohio, a town with a population one-fifth the size of Wareham’s during the off-season, made headlines this February due to a massive train derailment.

The derailment, and subsequent fire, released hazardous materials into the atmosphere. This killed thousands of wild animals and created concerns about air and water quality, leaving some residents reporting symptoms such as difficulty breathing when going outside.

“Even though it’s no longer on the front page, the issues are still there,” said the Rev. Philomena Hare of the First Congregational Church of Wareham. “The families are struggling with the environmental impact.” 

Tenor David Won and pianist Timothy Steele performed a benefit concert for East Palestine, held at the church on Sunday, May 14. All proceeds from the concert will go directly to the church’s sister churches in Ohio, which will reach out to local families in need.

“They are not forgotten,” Hare said. “All the way on the East Coast, in this little community of Wareham, we’re thinking about them, we pray for them, we wish them well.”

Won and Steele performed a variety of hymns and musical settings of scripture, plus “Bring Him Home” from the musical “Les Misérables.” Won and Steele both have strong ties to the Boston area, and have performed together in 100 recitals across New England.

“It’s always a great pleasure for David and I to come down to Wareham,” Steele said. 

“I’m always ready and prepared to do something that will benefit people,” Won said. 

To that end, he will be performing a recital in Kyiv, the embattled capital of Ukraine, this June. How did he manage to book a gig there?

“It’s a funny story,” he said. 

Won called a friend of his in Ukraine, asking if any concert venues would allow him to perform. Unsurprisingly, his friend was reluctant to help.

“I know it is not a good time,” Won told his friend, “but if this is God’s will, I would like to perform.”

Miraculously, Won and his friend managed to find an evangelical church in Kyiv that was willing to serve as a venue. 

“I fear for my safety,” he said, “but I believe that God will protect me.”