Russian Choir Chooses Mason as First U.S. Destination

Posted: December 8, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

This holiday season, Tatiana Andronikova is bringing a bit of her Russian roots back to the United States. After having been the accompanist to the Moscow State University Choir for 12 years, Andronikova, now an accompanist for George Mason, is bringing the choir to George Mason to perform in two holiday concerts.

Andronikova performed with the choir, which has been in existence for 250 years, from 1984 to 1996. “I had always wanted the opportunity to work with this choir. They have such a reputation in Russia,” she says. “I still have close contacts with them and have been trying to get them to come perform here for years.”

The Moscow State University Choir, which was founded as an all-male choir in 1755, is Russia’s most popular choir and has a rich tradition. The chorus owes one of the most remarkable pages of its history to the Russian composer Tchaikovsky. In 1872, he wrote for the university chorus the interpretation of the famous students’ song “Gaudeamus.” In December 1887, he also composed an a cappella song, “Thrice Blessed He Who Smiles” and devoted it to the chorus.

Moscow State University Choir
Although the Moscow State University Choir has performed all over Europe, it has never visited the United States.
Courtesy Moscow State University Choir

Today, the chorus comprises about 200 singers, male and female, and is one of Russia’s highest quality amateur choirs. It is housed by Moscow State University, the largest university in Russia with more than 100,000 students.

The choir has performed in nearly every country in Europe. However, says Andronikova, “They have never come to the United States, though it has always been their dream.”

And now their dream is coming true. This week, 35 members of the choir will arrive in the United States to perform at George Mason’s Fairfax Campus in a joint holiday concert with the George Mason University Choir. The performance will be at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 11, in the Concert Hall.

In addition to the Mason choir, the Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Ensembles will also perform. The program includes traditional holiday favorites, selections by Tchaikovsky and Glinka, another Russian composer, and Ukranian and Russian folk songs. Music Professor Patricia Miller will be a soloist on several songs, including the famous Russian folk song, “Kalinka,” and the spiritual, “My Lord – What a Morning!”

On Dec. 12, the Russian choir will perform in a separate concert at 8 p.m. in Harris Theater. Selections will reflect the Russian influence, with songs by Rachmaninov, Musorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Kojlaev and Bortnyansky.

Miller, along with Provost Peter Stearns, College of Visual and Performing Arts Dean William Reeder, Music Department Chair James Gardner and Director of Choral Studies Stan Engebretson, was one of the driving forces behind getting the choir to the states.

“I gave Professor Miller a CD of the choir singing,” says Andronikova, “and she called me the next morning and said, ‘We must bring this choir here. Our students must hear them sing.’ Everyone has been so supportive. It’s wonderful.”

Engebretson has also arranged for the Moscow State University Choir to perform in the Washington, D.C., area in various venues, including the Russian Embassy and the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church.

Though the event is sure to bring cultural exchange to Mason, Andronikova hopes this is the first of many partnerships with Moscow State University. Other departments at George Mason, including physics and geography, are interested in pursuing exchange programs or partnerships with the Russian university. And Andronikova and Miller are planning a trip to Moscow to perform.

“This is not only a cultural exchange. Both universities hope to establish links to deepen this relationship to benefit both institutions,” Andronikova says.

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