Wednesday, October 17, 2007

From Russia....

Glenn Gaston / Special to The Citizen
The Con Anima Vocal Ensemble from St. Petersburg, Russia performs at the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Auburn on Monday night.
By Jason Gabak / Special to The Citizen
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 9:59 AM EDT

AUBURN - Christianity has had a great struggle in the centuries since it set down roots in Russia, taking the form of the Russian Orthodox Church, a struggle that Anton Malakovsky, a member of the singing group Con Anima from St. Petersburg, knows all too well.
“Fyodor Dostoyevsky said ‘Man without church, man without God, is not Russian,'” Malakovsky said as he introduced the group of six singers to the audience at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Monday night. “This is a special day for us; it is unbelievably special for us as artists to share this with you our audience, the church.”
The group, comprised of members of various orthodox churches in St. Petersburg, all of whom trained at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, has individually and together performed throughout Russia, Europe and the United States.
They bring with them not only their musical gifts, but also their culture, reaching out in an effort to bring greater understanding between the East and West.
“We come here two times year,” Malakovsky said. “We hope that by performing here that we can understand America better and that America can understand us better and that our two countries may be able to understand each other a little better and bring each other closer.”
But perhaps the most important thing that the group brings is its faith.

“For us this is not only music,” Malakovsky said. “This is a very important part of all of our lives. We are all orthodox and this is something we also hope to be able to show to other people.”
This combination of skills and intentions was one of the things that drew Pastor Philip Windsor to invite the group to perform at Westminster.
“I had received some e-mails asking if we would be interested,” Windsor said. “We like to host these kinds of cultural events here at the church. They are something a little different being from Russia, but they are also a religious group, performing religious music. I thought it would be very interesting and something unique for our community to have them perform here.”
Windsor said that aside from a few clips on the Internet, he had not heard the group perform until they arrived in Auburn, and from that moment forward, he was incredibly impressed.
“We went to dinner,” Windsor said. “I was going to say grace and they performed grace in beautiful Russian, it was just amazing.”
The high structure of the church lends itself to creating a fine acoustic environment, the perfect compliment to the acapella style of Con Anima.
“We like very much singing here,” Malakovsky said. “This church is just wonderful for singing in.”
The group performed a wide range of pieces from hymns to folk-based pieces, all with the common theme of prayer and worship.
And while the performance was all in Russian, the sonorous beauty of the group's music and performance proved that music truly has the power to transcend cultural and language barriers and touch the soul.
“This was a wonderful opportunity, a wonderful experience to hear such a talented group,” Valerie Frasier said. “I love this kind of music. I didn't know what the words they were singing were, but just by listening and feeling it, you could understand the meaning and the feeling they were trying to convey.”

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