KIEV: Orchestras and choirs performed Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” in flash mobs at seven airports across Ukraine Sunday, in a tribute to those who died in the country’s revolution.
At Kiev’s Zhuliany airport, the presidential and national orchestras united to play the famous tune, which is also the EU’s anthem, in a fitting show of support for an uprising that began when protesters took to the streets to urge the government to strengthen ties between Ukraine and the Western bloc.
As uniformed band members began to play, plainclothes choir singers moved into position between the musicians and started to sing along.
Many of the spectators who gathered used their smartphones to film the performance.
Organizers said in a statement that the performances took place at 1 p.m. local time at the airports, which included Kiev’s Boryspil airport as well as others in the cities of Lviv, Odessa, Donetsk, Karkhiv and Dnipropetrovsk, in the country’s heavily Russified east.
The action marked the passing of 40 days since the deadliest day of the three months of protests, when Ukrainians revolted against former President Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Moscow government.
The 100 people who died during the uprising are known in Ukraine as the “Heavenly Hundred.”
“The aim is to commemorate the memory of the fallen,” said the organizers’ statement, adding: “It is also to show the unity and sovereignty of Ukraine.”
In the Orthodox tradition, the 40th day after a death signals the end of a mourning period and is marked with a special memorial service.
Thousands of mourners also gathered Sunday in Kiev’s Independence Square, the heart of the protest movement. Many shed tears as they laid flowers around makeshift shrines and barricades that have been perfectly preserved since the street battles ended.
“I want my children to know what we went through and to remember these people who gave their lives for their future,” said Volodymyr, a computer engineer visiting the site with his two children.
The “Ode to Joy” flash mobs were also a celebration of the signing of an Association Agreement with the EU, organizers said.
On March 21, Kiev’s new leaders signed the deal that Yanukovych had rejected four months earlier in favour of closer ties with Moscow.
Ukrainian artists have also been actively involved in pro-EU activism.
Pop star Ruslana once spent almost 10 hours on stage in Independence Square, as she sang to lift the spirits of the protesters facing off against security forces in the freezing cold.
At another point during the uprising, a piano painted blue and yellow – the colours of the Ukrainian flag – was placed in front of an imposing line of Berkut riot police for anyone to play, an effort to lift the grim mood and meet violence with art.
This week, musician and activist Nikita Rubchenko recorded a rock version of Ukraine’s national anthem – complete with guitar riffs and drum beats – that scored over 350,000 hits on YouTube.
Organizers of Sunday’s orchestral flash mob said they aimed to unite the fractured country though music.
The turmoil has sharpened divisions between the country’s pro-European west and its heavily Russified east.