Posts

Showing posts from 2019

The Final Day

Image
by Kit Lorentz
On the morning of our last day, diverse groups fanned out to diverse activities and sites — various museums, shopping downtown or in the flea market, or just a contemplative walk in the woods near the hotel.  Some weary ones slept in and took a breather from the rigors of successive days of brisk long walks, long times standing in Church service, relentless sightseeing and late-night revels around town or in the hotel’s “Garage Bar”.
In the late afternoon everyone gathered at the Spaso House, in the old Arbat district.  This elegant 1913 NeoClassical mansion, originally built by a prominent Russian industrialist, has been the American Ambassador’s residence since 1933 and has been the venue of many an extravagant ambassadorial fête.  Stepan, during his Fulbright scholarship, had been in communication with several of the staff including Ambassador John Huntsman, and had been given a significant State Department grant to help fund this YRC Russian Tour.  The YRC was invited…

Rock on

Image
by Zosia Caes
The day started off with a sound lesson for the undergraduate contingent: three hours on a bus is not the same as another three of sleep. Their three AM trek to the nearby woods and shwarma stand was cruelly met with a wake-up two hours later for a bus to rural Rostov, on which young choristers curled into speed-deprived and slightly-hungover balls vainly trying to catch up on sleep. An hour in we stocked up on gas station delicacies, and forged on to the Rostov Kremlin. The 11th century cathedral looked the worse for wear, with scaffolding running up the sides and great holes where icons and sturdier stone were once found. Yet, there was beauty in such imperfection. And it seems that similar sentiments were held toward the performance of the YRC’s “liturgy crew” by the faithful, as they wore pious smiles despite us reinventing the sounds of the Orthodox Liturgy with great liberty and reckless abandon in traditional style.

While the “lit crew” pressed on, the remainder of …

Saint Petersburg

by Andrew Scott

On this rest day a group of choristers, myself included, decided to travel to St. Petersburg and explore the city. We boarded a sleeper train for an overnight ride to the former Russian capital. It was an exciting journey, filled with lackluster sleep and bunk beds that were too small for my above-average height. We made it to St. Petersburg early in the morning and immediately set out into the city. We admired the wide boulevards, the intricate facades of the Savior on the Spilled Blood church, and the KFCs which were along our path.

The most important part of our walk, however, was its destination: the Hermitage. An intricate complex of buildings, the Hermitage contains a truly massive collection of artwork. We were treated to a free tour of part of the Hermitage, a sign of our growing clout (and a tour originally meant for two people, not fifteen, but nevermind that). The most interesting part of the tour was the well protected Gold and Diamond Rooms. They are filled …

Back to Our Roots

Image
by Stepan Sveshnikov
After a morning rehearsal we all headed to the Red Square. We wanted to recreate that famous photo in front of Saint Basil’s Cathedral and Emma Kazaryan, our videographer, wanted to film us singing in Red Square, and an echo and tribute to the old black and white footage of the Mickiewicz chorus gathering a public crowd.
The photo – as you can see – was a success. If we manage to produce an album from our four recordings, it will make a splendid cover.

We intended to sing on Red Square next, but because of a festival and a security drill we couldn’t get onto the square, so we sang off to the side, on the road that leads down to Saint Basil’s. A bit nervously at first, but with more confidence as a crowd gathered (half Chinese tourists half Russians) and the police showed no sign of intervening. Our spirituals received applause, as did Poidu li and Borodino. People in the crowd sang along, and one person even walked up to sing with us (nobody noticed but me).
After, pe…

More exploring, and a georgian outfit fit for a king

Image
by Renata Robbins

We kicked off the day with a morning rehearsal in the classic favorite location, the hotel bar garage. We reviewed Akh Ty Step, Ekh Dorogi, and Mitelitsa. The first two were in dire condition, but a sectional helped us along. The T2s are indebted to Connor Wood for his endless help in every song. 



After rehearsal, I went back to my room to get ready for an otherwise free day while the Liturgy Crew remained for their “20 minute” rehearsal. About an hour later, Andrew, Zach, and I left the hotel and set out hoping to go see the Armory in the Kremlin. Sam, Eric, Phil, Connor, and probably some others went to Izmailovo Kremlin and Market, which I saw yesterday, and Connor got a fantastic Georgian outfit which he should probably not wear in his upcoming visit to Georgia.


Izmailovo Kremlin is awesome, like magical gumdrop land part two (part one being St. Basil’s Church on the Red Square). The armory was sold out, so while Zach checked out the architectural complex of the Kre…

Gabriel and James’ Excellent Adventure

Image
by Gabriel Mesa

I would say this day began at the crack of dawn, but the sun rises at 3 AM in Moscow. A smaller contingent of the chorus managed to wake themselves up after the chaos of the free day that came before. Following the hotel breakfast (a hot dog and eggs with a consistency reminiscent of tres leches cake), the 17 of us were off to the metro station. We groggy travelers made our way through the Moscow underground to the Leningradsky train station, and on our way we admired the intricate and majestic metro as always. Upon arriving, we stood in the center of some stalls while Stepan bought the train tickets to Sergiev Posad. Although we were fascinated by the one dollar book stands around us, the piece de resistance was a KFC stall which was the first thing to catch our American eyes. It really is the small things that make such a big difference. After a brief discussion about the improvement regarding service and food in Russian fast food chains, I remarked that in this momen…

Explorations

Image
by Ladislav Charouz
After a morning rehearsal, Agata, Andrew, Michael Chang, and I visited the Novodevichy Cemetery. While Boris Yeltsin’s grave – a massive Russian flag made of cement – was difficult to miss, we spent quite a while trying to find Dmitri Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev. The sheer number of greats left us starstruck. Not only did we find Shostakovich and Prokofiev, but we also happened upon Rostropovich, Rubinstein, and Scriabin (we were also intent on finding Molotov, Khrushchev, Chekhov, and Gogol, but time was quite scarce).
The sky cleared up as we ventured into the picturesque Novodevichy Convent, but we did not stay too long. For one, much of the complex was under reconstruction, and furthermore, many Yalies are not in the habit of eating breakfast, which leaves them very hungry early on in the day. Upon finishing our lunch, we headed off to Red Square, taking the opportunity to tour a few lavish metro stations. Fortunately for us, the local populace largely igno…

Zaraysk

Image
by Connor Wood

Today was one of the best days of my life. We woke up early in the morning to board a bus for a little town called Zaraysk, which is almost a thousand years old. It took over three hours to cross the fields and forests that separate Zaraysk from Moscow. When we arrived, the town felt frozen in time. A few of the buildings were wooden and clearly at least a century old; all were no younger than the Soviet period. After a very hospitable lunch, we got a tour of the city’s kremlin—a general term for an old town’s fortress, not just the famous one in Moscow. As I walked through the gate I was struck by how this run-down, beautiful old fortress was twice as old as my country. I wonder what it’s like to grow up surrounded by such ancient things: on one hand, I hope it gives people a sense of the vastness of history and of our small place in it, but on the other hand, it’s easy to get used to what you pass by every day. 

After the kremlin we went a few minutes out of town to vis…

West Virginia

Image
by Eric Yu


It’s not where we are right now, but somehow it’s a place that none of us can forget. We’re singing this song as we walk back from the Pushkin Lycee, a local Russian high school with a marvelous auditorium, great tea, and girls wearing BTS t-shirts (Fake Love anyone?) (editor’s note: BTS is Korean boy band and “Fake Love” is the title of one of their hits). Alright, forget West Virginia for now. It will come back later. Today we woke up at 8:55am sharp, thanks to some relentless knocking by our very own Zosia Caes. She brought all of us boys to the yard to rehearse in “Bar Garage,” where we ran some of our favorite songs for the concert, including Ekh Dorogi and Little Lamb.
After a quick metro ride and walk, we performed our second concert in Russia. A very cute audience of elementary and middle schoolers greeted us, and we blew their minds with Little Lamb and Brigands. Alaric Krapf made several strange noises, and some girls in the front row laughed loudly during several p…

Formula Za Rulyem

by Malcolm Dickinson
This morning was a sad occasion. After one final deluxe breakfast buffet (including unlimited fresh fruit, custom cooked omelets, and real coffee) we bid goodbye to the Marriott Tverskaya Hotel. Belongings were stuffed into suitcases, garment bags were zipped and carried downstairs, and we turned in our electronic room keys. A bus took us to the Bogorodokoy neighborhood on the northeast edge of Moscow, where we found our new lodgings, a motel called Otel Formula ”Za Rulyem”, on a street of tall 1950s era apartment blocks.
It turns out the hotel takes its name from a car-racing magazine, “Formula Za Rulyem.¨ It translates as “formula one racing ‘by the book.’” The hotel is clean and safe. In every other aspect, it is the exact opposite of the Marriott. Each room is equipped with two narrower-than-twin beds; the strip of floor down the middle is just big enough for one small nightstand. Showers and toilets are located off a common hallway. Add in breakfast in the wind…

Our First Concert

Image
by Ernie Tucker

Yesterday, Sunday May 26, dawned early for many of us still on US time.  Fortunately, to ease us in, Stepan got us a bus to deliver us to our first concert venue: the marvelous Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, one of the tallest Orthodox churches in the world.

It was built in the 19th century to celebrate Russia’s victory over Napoleon in 1812. In 1882, it was the site of the world premiere of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, but was destroyed by Stalin in 1931 to build the Moscow subway.  Times changed again, and the cathedral was entirely rebuilt and reconsecrated in 2000.


We were welcomed there and given an excellent tour of the whole cathedral and its remarkable museum of church icons. This was followed by lunch in the staff cafeteria and a walk around the grounds. The weather was perfect for seeing sights in the area.

All of this was prelude to a remarkable concert in the early evening, which featured us and a number of other vocal and instrumental groups.  Every one perf…