Chamber Singers’ Performance in Russia Marks a Milestone

Posted: June 21, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

On Monday, the University Chamber Singers began a historic trip to Moscow, where they will perform in several concerts, including Moscow State University’s Commencement program.

Accompanied by Stan Engebretson, director of choral studies, the Chamber Singers will be the first university ensemble in 30 years to travel outside the United States.

The 10-day trip also represents an important move toward establishing a closer relationship with Moscow State University and further elevating George Mason’s prominence as an international university.

“The trip is a real honor, and hopefully it will move us up to the next level, to be a touring and recording choir,” says Engebretson.

While the Moscow trip will last less than two weeks, it took its planners many months to orchestrate.

The story began last year with Tatiana Andronikova, an accompanist at Mason and a former member of the Moscow State University Choir who suggested that George Mason invite her former choir to perform in Fairfax. The Music Department began working to make the exchange happen, and the efforts came to fruition last December when the Russian choir, which had never before visited the United States, traveled to Mason’s Fairfax Campus to take part in a joint holiday performance in the Concert Hall.

On another level, the Music Department’s goals meshed perfectly with those of Provost Peter Stearns, who aims to elevate George Mason’s reputation to that of an internationally acclaimed university. Andronikova’s suggestion fit into Stearns’ own plans to create an academic partnership with Moscow State University.

“He’s establishing these programs all over the world to bring out the name of George Mason University,” says Engebretson. As a result of the Music Department’s efforts and Stearns’ communication with the rector at Moscow State University, the trip became a reality.

Members of the Chamber Singers plan to tour Moscow, the university and several historic Russian cities. They will also perform at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.

Nearly 20,000 people are expected to attend the commencement performance at Moscow State University. Patricia Miller, Mason professor of voice, will be a featured guest soloist. During the stay in Moscow, she will also perform a recital and teach a master class at the university.

The choir’s repertoire will include the music of Mozart and Russian composers but will emphasize American pieces.

“Probably two-thirds of our program consists of American music, including selections from Gershwin’s ‘Porgy and Bess,’ Bernstein’s ‘West Side Story’ and spirituals,” says Engebretson. “In addition, we’re going to close with ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ sung by the combined Mason and Moscow State choirs, so we’ll really raise the Russian roof with that!”

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