A fact not known to many – there’s a very personal relation between a small village near Sergiyev Posad and the famous Russian bass singer Feodor Chaliapin who died in 1938.
Chaliapin met his would-be wife, an Italian ballet dancer Iola Tornaghi in Moscow but the place they chose for the wedding ceremony laid many miles apart from the capital’s luxurious halls.
Considering the late 19th century transport speed the young couple should have been traveling all day to get to Gagino, the friends’ family estate. But it was really rewarding – this rural marriage was a pure joy with plenty of music and singing, and flowers and jokes. The village church became the wedding hall for the two.
The whole event remained pretty obscure for decades though, but in early 2000s the story has been revealed to a broader public by a local journalist Dmitry Stepanov in a Radonezhye TV documentary which was based upon these facts and showed the impact it had on the community.
This triggered the interest, and the lowly village merry-making turned into the bigger singing festival soon after. It also helped in finding fundings for the church restoration. Prior to that the building stood abandoned for decades during the Soviet times and even was used as the warehouse.
I went to this festival – which is still no-named – in August 2009. Here are a few sound recordings and pictures from there.
The stage is really impromptu. A wooden floor made from planks tied together on the grass. Scaffolded, Our Lady of Kazan church is standing right behind the singers. They came from different backgrounds, ranging from local residents (to be heard later) to Moscows’ Bolshoi Theatre’s soloists. Here he is, Dmitry Stepanovitch of the Bolshoi sings an epithalame (wedding song) taken from Nero, the 1876 opera by Anton Rubinstein.
He was given probably the most unusual fee he has ever got – a bucket of freshly-picked blackcurrant handed over by one of the original organizers, the two village dwellers named Alexander Dorokhov and Victor Gavrilov. The both men have learnt about the Chaliapin story long before it went this big (Bolshoi is literally big in Russian) and the both are singing enthusiasts.
Mr Dorokhov and Mr Gavrilov also went on stage that day. Despite they do not claim to be professional singers they won applause for their performance as well. Malinovy zvon or Mellow Chime was the title of their song.
Russian word malinovy originates from the name of the Belgian town Malines (or Mechelen) – this is where tzar Peter the Great first heard those lovely bells. This sound enchanted him so much that he wanted the same back in Russia.
Infamous Sten’ka Razin, a Cossack, rebel and serial town-seizer is immortalized in another song once sung by Chaliapin. Performed in 2009 by Yuri Antonov (not to be confused with the legendary Soviet pop-singer of the same name), this number involved a more academic approach. No wonder because this one Mr. Antonov is the soloist of the Sergiyev Posad town hall orchestra.
Everyone was singing there, even the grasshoppers at the old church backyard. Here them chirring as the folk choir is performing in the distance.
And this ↓ photo is defenitely worth pressing:
If you’d like to know more about the next year festival, or even visit it – why not? – contact Bereznyakovskoe poselenie (Bereznyaki village local council, pronounced beh-reh-znia-‘kov-scaw-yeah paw-see-‘lye-nee-yeah) at +7-096-548-13-91. Thanks to Sasha who provided the photos.
Recorded August 8th, 2009
Published March 11th, 2010 (3.3 + 3.8+ 1.9 + 5.7 + 1.2 mb).