Saturday Night Live opens with Ukrainian chorus in powerful tribute amid Russian invasion

Saturday Night Live broke from tradition over the weekend, replacing its usual 'cold opening' comedy sketch with a moving performance from a Ukrainian choir.  

The Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York began the show, singing 'Prayer for Ukraine', a patriotic hymn, following Russia's decision to invade Ukraine earlier in the week. The song, written in 1885, became an anthem during the country's war for independence. 

The singers performed in front of an arrangement of candles which spelled out 'Kyiv', the Ukrainian capital city currently under attack by Russian forces

Cast members Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong solemnly introduced the choir. 

Viewers took to social media to share their feelings about the tribute, with many saying it brought them to tears. 

"You've made me cry," one Twitter user wrote.

"Watching from Australia and watching out for family in Ukraine. Thank you to everyone who's love and energy is surrounding Ukrainians. " 

"SNL, that's the classiest opening I've seen you broadcast in all your years on air. There have been some terrific moments, but that was just beautiful, bravo!" said another. 

"Having sung this many times at the end of Ukrainian mass in my youth it brought tears to my eyes to see the wonderful @nbcsnl institution I have loved my whole life honour the Ukrainian sacrifice and stand united in the fight for a people and democracy to survive," a third wrote. 

Saturday Night Live rarely forgoes it's usual format, having previously changed the show's opening following the September 11 attacks, the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, and after Donald Trump was elected US President in 2016.