Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Russian choir

A Russian monastery choir came to town tonight, so of course we went. And not surprisingly, the show was superb. I believe Russians have the best church music in the world, though I may be prejudiced and I certainly don’t know all about everybody else’s church music. Anyway, I knew we’d like it.

Just before the show began, the theater people made an announcement that the choir would omit one song from the first half of the show and another song after the intermission. People hadn’t settled into silence when the announcer started, and I only managed to remember what the choir would omit during the first half. So, at intermission I asked the people around me if they’d caught the rest of the announcement. I addressed everybody in Russian, and soon learned that I was the only person in the entire mezzanine who had understood the announcement, which was given in English.

Frustrated, I went down to the lobby and found a young woman. Surely a well-dressed woman under 30 in America would speak English. I asked her, then, if she spoke it. “A little bit,” she replied. So I asked her in Russian if she’d caught the announcement. She had not. I looked around the crowd to find somebody else who seemed likely to know English. I listened for a conversation in English. No luck. I tried the lounge area in the basement, and finally gave up. I’d just have to figure out on my own whether they were singing the songs in order. Well, actually, Alla helped me.

At one point in the second half they sang a song which the program called “Evening on the Roadstead.” (Вечер на рейде) The choir director turned to the audience and motioned for us to sing. Everybody but I seemed to know the words, and they sang very enthusiastically. The choir applauded the audience and the audience applauded the choir. Following up on this success, the soloist announced in English that their encore would be a song everybody knew and we were all invited to sing along. He sang Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” while the choir sang “Ba-da-doo-wah” and other sounds not requiring linguistic expertise. Amusingly, nobody in the audience seemed to know this number. The choir and soloist did a great job with it by themselves, presenting Russian style and perfectly-accented English.

The Moscow Sretensky Monastery Choir will perform in several other American cities in the next couple of weeks, and I’d encourage my readers to give it a shot if they come near you. You can see the whole schedule and listen to music samples here.
Our view from the mezzanine of the Majestic Theater

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