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South Ogden violinist plays Ukrainian national anthem before Jazz game

By Tim Vandenack - | Mar 10, 2022

Photo supplied, Utah Jazz

Gabriel Gordon, a violinist from South Ogden, plays the Ukrainian national anthem at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City before a Utah Jazz game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, March 9, 2022.

Music, says Gabriel Gordon, is meant to spread compassion and peace.

With that in mind, the South Ogden violinist posted a video of himself online late last month playing the Ukrainian national anthem. “For Ukraine,” he says before launching into the piece.

Then when the call came from Utah Jazz officials for a musician willing to play the anthem before a game on Wednesday, he stepped forward. He was picked, and before the Jazz game against the Portland Trail Blazers, he strode to center court, violin in hand, and offered the Ukrainian piece up to the public, just before the traditional pregame playing of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

“It was pretty intense, but it was amazing,” he said by phone Thursday morning from Tooele, where he was leading a practice of the Tooele High School Honors Orchestra.

Photo supplied, Utah Jazz

Gabriel Gordon, a violinist from South Ogden, plays the Ukrainian national anthem at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City before a Utah Jazz game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, March 9, 2022.

For Gordon, a conductor and violinist who works with many musical groups, including Ballet West, the aim by posting the video on his YouTube channel last month was to show solidarity with Ukrainians, fending off an invasion by Russian forces trying to take over the Eastern European nation. What Russian President Vladimir Putin is doing, said Gordon, whose grandmother was born in Lviv, a western Ukrainian city, “is unconscionable and repulsive.”

For the Jazz, the aim was similar.

“We wanted to show our support and solidarity with the people of Ukraine by taking this moment to acknowledge their hardship. Mr. Gordon played a stirring, emotional tribute to his country that we were fortunate to experience at a Jazz game,” said Frank Zang, the Jazz spokesperson.

Wednesday’s matchup marked the first home game for the Jazz since the Ukraine invasion started, Zang said. But Gordon’s performance was only the latest in a series of actions by the National Basketball Association team meant as support for Ukraine.

Notably, the Utah Jazz Foundation announced Wednesday that it had donated funds to Airbnb.org to aid in an initiative to house Ukrainian refugees displaced because to the invasion. Airbnb.org is a nonprofit arm affiliated with Airbnb, the online marketplace for lodging.

The Jazz had also lit up Vivint Arena, the Salt Lake City venue where the team plays its home games, in blue and yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. Likewise, the team is aiding in the effort announced by Gov. Spencer Cox last week, Driven to Assist, to help Ukrainian refugees.

Gordon has family ties to Ukraine. “That connection is what inspired me,” he said.

His grandmother was born in Lviv as his great-grandparents, who met in Odessa, another city of what is now Ukraine, fled Russia. His great-great-grandfather was a rabbi, Gordon said, and the Russian czar of the time had been persecuting and mistreating Jewish people.

In the video from Wednesday, Gordon, wearing a blue and yellow suit, plays in a spotlight at center court in Vivint Arena as a color guard stands at attention behind him. Blue and yellow lights in the shape of the Ukrainian flag shine from the stands behind him.

Though he felt pressure Wednesday, Gordon noted that before his performance he watched video of a man playing the Ukrainian national anthem in some sort of bomb shelter in Ukraine as bombing was occurring. “That’s pressure,” he said.

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