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Dalia Stasevska began a concert by the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa last week with a full-hearted speech condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine.Ian Cameron/National Arts Centre

The Ukrainian-Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska began a concert by the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa last week with a full-hearted speech condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine and calling on Western leaders to do more to help the embattled country.

“Ukrainians are fighting for the whole world,” she said. Then, quoting the adage that “music begins where words end,” the guest maestro introduced a rendition of the Ukrainian national anthem.

The solemn moment at Southam Hall is emblematic of a movement currently sweeping the orchestral world and beyond. Concerts are being dedicated to the Ukrainian cause, with the defiant national anthem (Ukraine’s Glory Hasn’t Perished) serving as a stoic rallying point.

In New York on Monday, with the exterior of the Metropolitan Opera House awash in blue and yellow, the colours of the Ukrainian flag, the Met Orchestra and Chorus gave a benefit performance, titled A Concert for Ukraine. A recent episode of Saturday Night Live opened with the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York singing the Ukrainian national anthem. The piece, which began life as the 19th-century poem Ukraine Is Not Dead Yet, was banned when Ukraine became part of the Soviet Union in the early 1920s and revived after the fall of the communist state.

Dalia Stasevska, a Ukrainian-Finnish conductor, gave a powerful speech before a concert by the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa on March 9, condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Hear her full comments.

In Canada, the anthem is serving as a show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people in orchestral halls and other music venues across the country. Both the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra have played it during recent performances.

For the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the gesture is beyond symbolic. The playing of the anthem has been in support of the orchestra’s music director Daniel Raiskin, a Russian whose wife is Ukrainian. She had travelled to Ukraine shortly before the invasion to be with her mother. The two of them fled the country and are now with Raiskin in Bratislava, Slovakia, where he is principal conductor of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra.

A week ago, the Ukrainian youth organization Plast Ottawa performed the Ukrainian national anthem before the Ottawa Senators game at the Canadian Tire Centre. The parents of team owner Eugene Melnyk were born in Ukraine.

Last Friday, a group of Toronto artists including soprano Measha Brueggergosman and Barenaked Ladies’ Jim Creeggan took part in a Ukraine benefit concert that ended with trumpeter Andrew McAnsh playing the anthem solo on the floor of the Opera House rock club. He was surrounded by a circle of vocalists, musicians and concertgoers singing the words.

“My partner is Ukrainian, and we had a discussion about how we wanted to do the anthem in a happy key for both men and women,” said McAnsh, a jazz musician and educator. “We decided to play it in E-flat major.”

Another Ukrainian fundraiser at the Opera House is scheduled this Friday. The show will be headlined by the Toronto-based klezmer-punk party band Lemon Bucket Orkestra. Founding member Mark Marczyk has male relatives who are fighting in Ukraine and female family members who have fled the country.

“I wouldn’t consider myself a nationalist by any stretch of the imagination, but in this particular case the thing that is being attacked is the cultural, social and political identity of Ukraine,” says Marczyk. “People are being told there is no such thing as Ukraine, and Ukrainians are confused as to who they actually are.”

From the middle of Odesa to the ice before an NHL match, the national anthem of Ukraine — Ukraine’s Glory Hasn’t Perished — has been performed across the world to show solidarity during the Russian invasion. The opening lines of the anthem in English are, "Ukraine is not yet dead, nor its glory and freedom, luck will still smile on us brother-Ukrainians.

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Amidst this existential crisis, Marczyk and the Lemon Bucket Orkestra will play the national anthem, which has an opening line that roughly translates to “Ukraine’s glory and freedom have not yet died.” That the piece currently reverberates across Canada and around the world is a revelation to the musician.

“The song is a refutation and a call to action on the cultural front,” he says. “To have that kind of support from people and to have them singing this song that is tied to Ukrainian identity, that means an incredible amount.”

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