While Saturday Night Live more often than not opts for comedy in its cold open, this week, the laughter was on hold.
Given the devastating Russian-Ukrainian conflict, this week’s episode began on a somber note. The Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York, introduced by Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong, performed instead. They delivered a mournful song for the audience with “Prayer for Ukraine” before the camera panned to a table of candles surrounding the name of the Ukrainian capital, “Kyiv.”
According to Ukrainian Weekly, the chorus was founded by Ukrainian immigrants in the 1940s in order to “preserve and cultivate the rich musical heritage of Ukraine.” The decision to feature an emotional tribute from the folk chorus followed the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, spearheaded by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It’s seldom that SNL has opened on such a serious note. On the first episode following 9/11, Paul Simon sang “The Boxer” alongside then-New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and first responders. In more recent years, Kate McKinnon, dressed as Hillary Clinton, delivered a haunting rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” on the piano after former president Donald Trump won the 2016 election.