The enthusiastic, community London Russian Choir makes its Pushkin House debut with a broad range of traditional Russian songs. The Choir was established in 2013 by multi-talented Russian singer, musician, and composer, Polina Skovoroda-Shepherd.
The London Russian Choir promotes a wide range of music from Russia. Original arrangements by the choir leader include traditional lyrical and epic songs, ritual calendar music for pagan holidays, wedding songs, dance songs and and other folklore. Another part of the repertoire represents much loved by native Russians Art Songs (Romances) from the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as more known pieces by Bortnyansky, Tchaikovsky and other classics.
The multi-talented Polina Skovoroda-Shepherd regularly performs in London and internationally. No stranger to social singing at gatherings such as weddings, family parties, and celebrations, Polina was born in Siberia and grew up in a Russian Jewish home where songs were frequently sung at table after eating borsht and drinking homemade wine. Her grandfather, a bayanist (button accordion player) and her mother, a professional singer would often perform together for hours while Polina listened with the hungry ears of a child, learning deeply rooted traditions throughout her early years.
Whilst living in Kazan (capital of Tatarstan) and studying at the State Academy, Polina joined Russia’s first klezmer band for 60 years, Simcha. She soon became the principal Yiddish choir leader of the former Soviet Union, composing original material for large groups of voices and touring internationally with herQuartet Ashkenazim.
Currently bringing all her early experiences to the front, Polina has composed original songs and is performing them with a Brighton based brass band Fanfara. Using the fierce tempos and tonality of east European gypsy brass music and Russian song thrown in with a generous handful of Yiddish, the collaboration creates a fresh and rich new style full of wildness, improvisation and danceable rhythms. All with great sensitivity and deep musicality.
As a pianist she works in the Sound [&] Light Cinematic Duo performing live accompaniment to rare black and white silent films. She also plays in the Merlin Shepherd Quartet who bring together the music of Jewish eastern Europe, Greece and Turkey.
As a representative artist of The Brighton Festival of World Sacred Music, Polina says, “Music is the Voice of the Universe where every note has a reason.”
Programme for the evening:
1. Поиграйте, красны девки - Paigraite, krasny Diefki - Play, lovely girls. Folklore
Play,lovely girls. I would love to join your dance, but my jealous husband will not let me out. I will watch you secretly from the window.
2. Na Grianoy Nedele - На гряной Неделе - Mermaid song. Folklore
The mermaids were sitting early in the morning,
on a crooked birch tree,
asking for bread and salt and bitter onion...
Semik, also known as Gryanaya (Green) or Rusal'naya Nedel'a (Rusalka week) is an ancient Slavic fertility festival celebrated in early June and closely linked with the cult of the dead and the spring agricultural rites. The Rusalki (Mermaids) were believed to be at their most dangerous during the Green Week, and were supposed to have left their watery depths in order to swing on branches of birch and willow trees at night. Peasant women sometimes hung offerings to appease them.
3. Akh ty step’ shirokaya - O you Broad Steppe. Folk song
O broad steppe,
Widely, mother, have you embraced.
Oh, the eagle of the steppe
Does not rise.
Oh, then the Don Cossack will be on the loose....
4. V tiomnom lese - В тёмном лесе - In a dark forest. Folklore
A good crop of hemp from my field in the forest. A thieving sparrow keeps pecking at it. I will catch it and pluck it..
5. Oy to ne vecher - Ой то не вечер - Oh, it's not evening. Cossak song
I dreamt my black steed bolted and the wind ripped my black hat from my unruly head. My captain divined - it will be lost, your unruly head.
Polina Skovoroda solo
6. Plach - Плач - Cry
The wind is blowing with melancholy, but the rain waters the earth. I will lay the table and gather people. Let the grey storm sing with us.
7. Serebristaya berioza - Серебристая берёза - The silver birch
The silver birch sings with gentle rustling, endures many winters of wind and frost, waiting to sing the sun again.
8. Angel – Ангел
I dreamed of an angel. He softly descended from his home and recognised all my hidden sorrows. He melted my soul’s armour in his golden light, pulled my soul out of the crowd and wrapped me up into silence...
9. Ya gliazhu na more - Я гляжу на море – I look at the sea
I find no peace in the busy waves or the busy clouds or the bushy birches. Isn’t it better just to trust my love’s arms for life?
10. Стрела – The Arrow. Folk song from Ivan the Terrible times, 17 Century
O arrow, just fly
Along the bank.
O arrow, just find
The fine young man.
Is like a river flowing.
Oh, his mother is weeping
Is like a river flowing.
Oh, his sister’s weeping
Is like a stream flowing.
Oh, his wife’s weeping
Fell like dew.
11. Priakha - Пряха - The spinner – Russian Art Song, 19 Century
A lovely young spinner sits under the window with hazel eyes and honey tresses. What are you dreaming of, maiden-beauty?
12. Raz-dva liubliu tibia - Раз-два люблю тебя - One-two, I love you. Folklore
I have fallen for a young man. Vaniushka, do not marry Taniushka!
A bad wife will give you grief, a good wife a beautiful life.
13. Выхожу один я на дорогу - Alone I set out on the road
Lyrics - Mikhail Lermontov, music - Elizaveta Shashina
Russian Art Song (Russian Romance)
I'm alone on the path just taken;
Glittering, it stretches through the fog;
Quiet night. All harkens to the Creator,
And two stars begin a dialogue....
14. Kol slaven - Коль славен - How glorious. Russian Liturgy/D. Bortniansky
How glorious our Lord is, the tongue cannot express.
He is great everywhere and His glory shines both night and day.
Thy Lamb shows Thee to us.
Our praise and thanks and prayers and love rise up to Thee
from the altar of our hearts.
15. Вдоль да по речке – Along the River . Folk song
From a collection of Great Russian Songs by professor Sobolevsky,1898 Великорусские народные песни / Изд. проф. А. И. Соболевским. Т. IV. — СПб., 1898.
Along the river, along the Kazanka,
A grey drake is swimming.
Along the bank, along the steep bank,
A fine young man is walking.
To whom will it fall to comb out my honey curls?..