Here's a description of what you'll find on the tape, which is pretty representative of our repertoire:
1. Come and Bow Down (17th Century) The oldest written Russian music has come down to us in neumatic notation. Musicologists argue about how to decipher the neums, which are called kriuchki -- "little hooks" in Russian. As the harmonies show, this piece was composed before the influence of Western music, and the singing style also has more in common with native folk traditions.
2. God Save the Tsar! (Alexei L'vov, 1798-1870) This song, was written in 1833 at the request of Tsar Nicholas I; the words are by Zhukovsky, a prominent poet of the time who was also the Tsar's tutor and a friend of Pushkin's:
God save the Tsar, strong and stately!
Rule to our glory!
Rule to the fear of our enemies!
God save the Tsar!
3. Many Years! (Traditional) Part of the orthodox liturgy, this song was also used to wish "Happy Birthday." There are many versions; this one is probably 19th Century.
4. Salvation is Created (Pavel Chesnokov, 1877-1944) The text is "Salvation is created, salvation of the world, Alleluia!"
5. Psalm 133/34 Now bless the Lord: Mixail Mixailovic Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859-1935) was a church choir conductor, and after the revolution he directed the Bolshoy theater for a time. The text to this psalm, which is #133 in the Orthodox canon, is as follows:
Lo, now bless the Lord all the servants of the Lord standing in the Lord's temple, in the courts of the house of our Lord. In the nights hold up your hands to the sanctuary and bless the Lord. The Lord of Zion, who has created the heaven and the earth, blesses you.
6. Cherubic Hymn No. 7 (Dmitry Bortniansky) Cherubic Hymn: The text is as follows:
We, who mystically represent the Cherubim and sing the thrice-holy hymn to the life-giving Trinity, let us lay aside the cares of present life that we may receive the King of all, invisibly escorted by the Angelic Hosts, Alleluia.
The Cherubic hymn is sung at the most mystical part of the liturgy, and it probably has more famous musical arrangements than any other part of the liturgy text. Many composers wrote several. Bortniansky must have written at least 20. Bortniansky was Kapellmeister at the Imperial court and wrote some of the classics of Russian liturgical music. By this time Russian music was strongly influenced by Italian music, and most composers spent time studying in Italy, but the grafting of Italian harmony and style onto the old znamenny melodies produced the sound typical of Russian liturgical music today.
7. Psalm 116 (Molokan) The Molokans have preserved many old folk traditions, among them their style of singing, which is transmitted like folk singing from one singer to another. The text of this Psalm is as follows:
I clung to my faith even when I said "I am sorely afflicted"
I said in my alarm "All men are deceitful"
What return shall I make to the Lord for all his bounties?
8. Thou Art a Garden (Georgia: Kakheti-Kartli) The text is ascribed to King Demetre I of Georgia, who reigned 1125-1156. Its roots go back into folklore, but it became a church hymn, which today is sung in church, as well as at weddings and other festivities. This is the best-known Georgian "choral" in the traditional style. The text:
Thou art a garden, newly blossomed out,
the beneficial root, arisen in Eden
Fragrant poplar, grown in paradise,
and Thou Thyself a brilliant sun.
1. The Blacksmith (Georgia)
A man finds a golden bird-shoe and asks a blacksmith to make it into various agricultural implements.
2. The Upper Chamber (Nizhnjaja Pokrovka, Belgorodskaja obl.) Many of our songs we learned from the Pokrovsky ensemble, who have collected from all over Russia. They often go on expeditions to the Belgorod region. The text is relatively incomprehensible, as is often the case with folk texts:
In the upper chamber, there Vanya was sitting.
Vanya's blond and curly, and under him there are boards,
Boards and thin planks of oak and fir,
I walked and strolled on those boards
Eventually the girl gets beaten for being playful and breaking the boards. There's a dance that goes along with this one called "peresek," which means something like intersect, since the beats of the two dancers are supposed to be at cross purposes.
3. Not the White Dawn (Arkhangel) A typical Northern song. It is not a falcon who has left the nest, it is my dear one leaving the yard. Where are you going? You have said goodbye to everyone, only to me have you not said goodbye!
4. Lado (Kaluga) Lado (ritual song said to bring on rain or labor, text very old)
The nightingale sings in the woods. No one hears his song but the white birch tree, which stands in the field with its boughs bending down.
5. Where Have You Gone? (Belgorodskaja Obl.) Where have you gone Igorushka, curly head? Where have you gone, O come back, I forgot to say something to you. Where have you gone? Did a storm take you away? or did you not have enough girls in the village?
6. Porushka (Afanas'evka, Belgorodskaja obl.) Why do you love Ivan? Because he's got curly hair and a curly beard. Vanya walks around the room knocking his boots together. This one eventually gets pretty suggestive, but we don't get that far in the text.
7. Autumn (Poles'e) Autumn (a wedding lament: the girl was married off into another family, away from her village and friends to become the slave of her husband's family: not very pleasant, and tradition had it that the more she cried at the wedding, the happier she would be later on) Poles'e is between the Ukraine and Belarus.
Autumn has come early, the leaves have fallen, the frost has frozen the rivers. The daws are flying one way, the cuckoos another. The girls are walking one way, Klava another. The daws started to chirp, the cuckoo sang cuckoo! The girls started to sing, Klava started to cry. Don't cry Klava, your time has come!
8. Caucasus Mountains (Terek Cossacks) The Terek Cossacks lived in the Caucasus mountains, near the river Terek in Chechnya. This song is sung to the mountains: From the mountains flowed a river, near it stood a tree. In the tree was an eagle, and it held in its claws a black raven.
9. Little Golden Bee (Don Cossacks) Our last song actually has a text originally taken from Derzhavin, an 18th century Russian poet, but it has been altered by the folk mind:
Oh little golden bee, why are you buzzing?
You fly all around and don't fly away.
Probably you love my Lyuba
My Lyuba has a red pigtail, a blue ribbon, honey lips
I'll glue myself to her lips and die.
You're fooling, you won't glue yourself; you lie, you won't die.