Along the main street with an ensemble
Russian people can be proud of their history. We, people of the 21st century, should know the history of our motherland and our nation. It is A. V. Aleksandrov Red Banner folk song and dance ensemble's songs that help us not to forget our history for over 80 years. These are Russian folk and military-patriotic songs, songs of the war years and modern songs, as well as religious psalms.
A. V. Aleksandrov Red Banner folk song and dance company was the largest military music project in the Soviet Union and it is the largest military music project in modern Russia. This company has world-wide popularity, absolute love and confession of millions of listeners.
There is an interview with the director of twice awarded the Order of Red Banner folk song and dance company of Russian Army named after A. V. Aleksandrov, Leonid MALEV, colonel and honored culture worker of Russian Federation about the past, current and future plans for the company.
Leonid Ivanovich, let's begin with geography. What regions does your ensemble visit most often?
We have travelled throughout the country and visited more than 60 countries of the world. At the same time I want to blow up the myth that we nearly live abroad. In fact we undertake short-term business trips quite often; however our main task is to give concerts in our native country: the more, the better. As a rule, our ensemble being the main military folk song and dance ensemble of Russia gives concerts, first of all, in military districts, military units and subdivisions of Russian Army, in soldier's clubs, military schools, military offices and hospitals. Every year our artists give concerts to soldiers who are in armed forces in Chechnya, Tadzhikistan, Pridnestrovie, and Abkhazya. We gave a lot of concerts in Far Eastern, Privolzhski, Uralski military districts, in the North and Far East. The target audience for us is soldiers and their families as well as veterans of the Great Patriotic War. Our concerts can be approximately divided in such proportion: 53% - for soldiers, 25% - for civilians of the country, 22% - abroad.
What is the most notable concert abroad that you remember still?
The most notable concert which I still remember took place in Vatican in October, 2004. Seven thousands of packed audience of Nervy: members of Italian government and superior hierarchs of the Catholic Church, they all welcomed us enthusiastically with a storm of applause. The military art was highly esteemed by Pope John Paul II. When the concert was finished he said, "Bravo, Russia! Bravo, Army!"
Impressive concerts took place in London, Paris, New York and Washington. They were organized in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. I still bear in mind the impressions of our concert in NATO headquarter in Brussels where our singers showed the power of Russian military art. It was a working day and conference room was too small for those who wanted to hear the voice of Russian Army. The whole staff in the building of NATO organization packed passageway in the conference room and even the hall and after the concert we received letters of gratitude.
In fact we had a lot of interesting performances at recently all around the world - in Morocco, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, China and some other countries. Many concerts were attended by the heads of states. Hun Czin Tao, chairman of PRC, highly estimated our ensemble. He named our ensemble a visit card of Russia, well-known among Chinese people and especially to the older generation who sing our songs in Russian language with the great pleasure.
We try to prepare concert programs so that they contain not just entertainment elements but also the element of involvement in order to find a broad response among the audience. We try to reveal something special in every song, its depth and its soul. It was the main principle laid out by Alexander Vasilievich Alexandrov, the founder of the company. And this is not just a great responsibility for our ensemble to do this; it's a great pleasure to do this.
In what country you gave the last concert?
It was in Quebec, Canada from August 16th to 26th. There we took part in the festival of military orchestras. Groups from 12 countries - USA, Germany, Great Britain, Belgium, France, Norway, Poland, Netherlands, Singapore, South Korea, Chile, and Russia - participated in this festival. In Quebec we gave the concert on the stage of Grande Theatre with two and a half thousand places in it. The tickets were sold out during the period of 2.5 months before we arrived there though the price was 75 - 120 dollars. There we also had the chance to take part in Military Tatu and parade. This was the first time when our ensemble participated in a festival of such format. As a rule we give concerts on stages and in Quebec we passed along the central streets of the city. Later the organizers of the festival told us that nearly two hundred thousand people watched this procession in Quebec. And our column looked rather picturesque: at the ahead of the column leaders walked, then ballet-dancers who carried Russian flags of air, naval, and land forces, and after them walked choir singers and the orchestra. The choir sang under music performed by the orchestra and everything was spectacular, impressive and well done according to the military standards. We were asked then whether we rehearsed this or not, but I think it was because of our parade drill.
It was a hearty welcome that shifted all expectations - a storm of applause with cries from the audience in English and French languages: «Bravo, Russia! », «Thank you! », «We love you! ». And we, the folk song and dance company of the Russian Ministry of Defense as its representative were proud of this, feeling great satisfaction and happiness about the fact that everything was like clockwork. We have said that our procession on "the central street with orchestra" turned out to be the best one among the other countries who participated in this festival. There was a time of happiness for both sides: music groups, and the audience, both were impressed by this.
Speaking about your folk song and dance company people use a lot of epithets and all of them in best degree: prominent, inimitable, worldwide known, unique... How can you preserve all this characteristics for a long period of time?
First of all it's because of the constant work on improvement of our professional skills. We carry out regularly the planned rehearsals and especially before the concert. Musicians, actors of the choir and the ballet pass the entrance exam to the selection committee and then if they pass it they have a trial period. In other words enrolled in the army so follow the instructions given by Suvorov who said that teaching is hard but the fight is easy.
Of course everything depends on the repertoire which is quite big - more than two thousand of works. Depending of the concert we choose the special repertoire. We have a rule that we try not to brake. In any country we sing 2-3 songs in the native language of the people, who live there. As a rule it helps to find the broad response and gratitude among the audience. And for us it is some kind of musical gift А для нас это своего рода музыкальный подарок, honor to the respect of the host country and its people. For instance in Canada when we sang a hymn of Russia people stood up to show the respect to our country and when we finished we sang a hymn of their country «Oh, Canada! ».
A million of people in our country and abroad like songs like "Kalinka" "Katyusha", "Smuglyanka", the other songs of the military years as well as "The Day of the Victory", "Ochi chernye", "Vecherny zvon", "Podmoskovnye vechera". All these songs are known because of Alexandrov folk song and dance company and people want to hear these songs on every concert. They are not just the part of our history but they are the great masterpieces. Interesting but «Sveschenaya voyna" written by Alexander Vasilievich Aleksandrov in 1941 and helped Soviet soldiers to protect their Motherland is still popular in Slovakia, Poland, Bulgaria. The audience listen it standing up and it touches their hearts and souls.
For our concerts we search for the new musical works because you can't live only the past. But to tell you the truth it's impossible to imagine our concert without works of Russian and West-European classical music (Beethoven, Bach, Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky), the part of human history. But our repertoire contains not only songs of the military years and folk songs, arias from operas, songs of the worlds folks, spiritual music but also the new songs written by Iliya Reznik - "To Serve Russia", Eduard Hanka, Kim Breytburg, Sergey Sashin and other modern composers and poets.
The ballet under the direction of Lev Nikolaevich Kulikov, the main ballet master, national artist of Russia holds the heights of choreographic art with honor. The main place in its repertoire belongs to the military compositions: "Matroskaya barynya", "Kazachiya cavalry plyaska", "Festive march", "Invitation to dance" and others. And a lot of Russian folk dances. The Classical repertoire contains "Poloveckie plyasky" from opera "Knyaz Igor" written by Alexander Borodin. This is our dance classics, but we always update the dance repertoire.
It is a great pleasure for us to see young people on our concerts. Our concerts in MSU, Stroganovsky University, in military educational institutions serve a proof that young people are interested in our repertoire and that we sing songs "live" and that it is not the lip synch songs. And the audience appreciates it.
The desire to preserve tradition laid down by Alexandrovs father and son in finding the staff and working out the repertoire, its constant renewing by new musical works, live sound, high quality of the performance - all this guarantee the success of our performance, make us popular.
But the most interesting and perspective for present-day direction is to crate the new creative forms for the Russian Army folk group. The Last two years we realize the project of the New Year's fairy tale for children - a music show "About Ivan good fellow, bold brave man", where the main hero is a soldier who helps Ded Moroz to safe the New Year's Day. The shows first took place in Moscow and then the group of our actors gave them in Vladikavkaz, in Grozny in military offices where took place the New Year's holidays for children. Of course it's better to celebrate the New Year's Eve at home in front of the TV in the clatter of the cut-glasses full of champagne and the ringing chimes. But the destination of the true actor is to give festival to the children. Our artists don't afraid of hard ways and they don't search the easy ways.
Please tell our readers about creative school for children opened recently at the base of your company.
It's not a secret that the longer you work with children the more prospects and possibilities on realization in this society they have. We addressed to the Ministry of Defense officials with an appeal to organize male choir and this was approved. October, 1, 2007 was the opening day of creative school for musical and aesthetic education for children "Aleksandrovcy". This became the important event in the year of 80-aniversary.
The first night of the boys choir "Aleksandrovcy" on December 26 at cadet ball "Gold epaulette" was like clockwork. After that night they participated in many concerts, the last in memory of the Beslan tragedy on Poklonnaya Gora and within the framework of celebration of the City Day on the 3 and 7 of September. It should be mentioned that we have an excellent director of the school Nina Anatolievna Putilina who puts all her soul in raising the worthy generation.
We make a lot in order to raise healthy generation in respect of physical, spiritual and moral health. Here children begin at the beginning of vocal music and literary speaking they absorb the best practice of their teachers.
Children choir became an integral part of the ensemble life and it takes part in its important concerts. And we are planned to have tours together.
With what experience you will meet the anniversary of the ensemble, are there any problems?
The results of our work during the period of 80 years cause the feeling of deep satisfaction and pride to us. It was shot a film about the history of Aleksandrov's ensemble and we have released the album. I doubt whether the administration of any other ensemble would carry out the certification approval for the artists and we did this. During the certification approval of our choir we invited Iosif Kobzon who stayed with us for three days. Moreover all our actors - soloists, male choir, orchestra and mixed dance group - have special music and choreographic education. And we requested to make an independent sociological assessment of the ensemble's opinion on the directions of development and the interests which are not taken into account. Thus another guarantee of successful work of our ensemble.
It should be pointed out that the problems faced by our ensemble find a response from our government and Ministry of Defense. January, 29 President of Russia signed the order about the grant to provide support for creative project of the leading professional groups of folk and choreographic art for the period of 2008 - 2010, and we are mentioned in this order. This is the second grant which we get. We can come with our serious and complex problems connected with the improvement of the material base of our ensemble, organization of the tours and others to Nikolay Aleksandrovich Pankov, the state-secretary, an undersecretary of the defense minister of Russian Federation.
Administration of Moscow also takes interest in Alexandrov ensemble. I've recently met with Yuri Michailovich Luzhkov who helped us to obtain permission on laying out the memorial garden in front of the administrative buildings of the ensemble, where it will be installed the monument to A.V. Aleksandrov, the founder of the ensemble. Alexander Vasilievich did a lot not just for the ensemble but he did a lot to develop the culture of music in our country. It is he, who wrote a vast of musical works and the music for the hymn of our country which was for the first time performed on January, 1, 1944. Since then the words of our hymn were changed. The sounds of hymn attend our sportsmen when they take place on pedestal of honor. We all have a great desire to open this monument until the day of our anniversary.
What are the plans for the nearest future and what do you want from the ensemble as its director?
Within the framework of anniversary celebration there will be several concerts: October, 3 - a big concert of our and foreign stars in the Tchaikovsky Hall, October, 24 - concert in the financial academy of Yaroslavl and at the end of September a group of our actors will go to Abkhazia. There will be several concerts abroad and in particular in Turkey and in India where they celebrate the year of Russia. For the New Year's Eve we will got to the military offices and hospital in Chechnya. According to the Sergey Ivanov's, the former defense minister of Russia opinion, our ensemble is the most mobile troops in the Armed Forces of Russia.
Now our actors earn approximately 30 thousand rubles per month and to tell the truth they could earn more. Then we want to increase the area for independent work of musician, to finish the new program to the following year and to train our dancers several Byelorussian and Moldavian dances. In fact, I think it's a high time for ensemble to have the Nobel Prize for long and successful life on the stage, for propaganda of Russian military and folk art. Or at least it should have the honor to take part in the awarded ceremony of prize-winners.
I have dream that one day the building of our ensemble - an old building of the beginning the past century located in one of the quite side street will someday become one of the tourist route in Moscow. After all this is our history! We have something to show both our and foreign tourist.
Twice awarded the Order of Red Banner folk song and dance company of Russian Army named after A. V. Aleksandrov is the largest creative military group of Russia. The date of its birth is considered to be October, 12, 1928, when it first appeared on a stage of the Red Army Central House in a group of 12 people group. July, 10, 1949 ensemble was assigned the name of its founder - Alexander Vasilievich Aleksandrov. In 1979 ensemble got the top professional qualification, the honorable rank "academic".
Choir of the ensemble is considered to be one of the best male choirs of the world. It has all the harmony and purity of academic choir and at the same time it brings bright emotions and spontaneity inherited from the folk performance tradition. The orchestra has the unique in its structural features. It combines Russian folk instruments - domra, balalaika, button accordion with wooden and cooper wind instruments.
At years of the Great Patriotic War ensemble gave concerts by full and in groups in acting army forces more than 1500 times.
The ensemble have rendered great services to our country and received high awards for these services. In 1935 the ensemble received Honorable revolutionary Red Banner with the order "Red Star" on it. In 1949 to its 20-aniversary it received the order "Red Banner" for the second time.
Aleksandrovcy is awarded with diploma of International exhibition in Paris "Grant" (1937); they have awards for the record high numbers of gramophone records "Golden disks" of French company "Chane de Mond" (1964.). The ensemble has Dutch awards "N.O.S." (1974) and "Golden disk ball" (1961), which is given by French Academy of gramophone records for the best record of the year.