On the Russian military plane that crashed in the Black Sea on Sunday were 64 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, the army choir known as Russia's "cultural paratroopers" or "singing weapon." They were headed to one of Russia's bases in Syria to entertain the troops at New Year's. The group was founded in the 1920s and once had a repertoire full of Soviet patriotism, but in more recently it became known for pushing the bounds musically, albeit in full military dress. These seven videos of the Alexandrov Ensemble before the Russian military plane crash highlights their unique talent.
It's possible the choir will become known more for the crash than their many performances. The Tupolev Tu-154 went down just two minutes after take-off, and on Monday, Russian defense and transport officials reiterated that terrorism is not suspected as the cause. Instead, it is more likely that mechanical failure or pilot error is to blame. "In order to organize our work, we need to understand what happened,” Russia's transport minister Maxim Sokolov said at a news conference Monday. “As far as we know, the main versions do not include the terrorist act, so we base our work on the premise that technical malfunction or pilot’s error caused the catastrophe."
Whatever the cause, it will be difficult for Russians to come to terms with the cultural loss. Moscow city’s culture department head Alexander Kibovsk explained what many of his copatriots were feeling, The Globe & Mail reported. "It’s difficult to grasp the scale of that tragedy,” Kibovsky said on Russian television. “They were raising pride for our culture, our country, across the entire world.”
To get a better idea of their style of performance, watch these videos:
1) The Russian National Anthem
A fitting song for the Red Army Choir, as the Alexandrov Ensemble is sometimes known, is surely the Russian national anthem which starts off (in Russian):
2) A Song About A Snowball Tree Sung In Athens
Considered one of the most famous Russian folk songs of all time, "Kalinka," is about pine trees and the berries that grow on the kalinka, or snowball tree.
3) A Little Boy Joins The Choir
"Katyusha" is all about a boy on the front lines of war protecting his homeland while his romantic interest stays at home protecting their love. This preformance of the song includes an adorable little boy.
4) This Song Is To Honor The Women
Forget the interpretive dance, this song is supposed to be about the female partisans in a Russian civil war, and how a boy tried to hit on a Moldovan girl who in turn recruited him to support the rebellion.
5) Listen To "The Battle Of A Soldier"
This 2009 performance is full of emotion and the translation of the lyrics point to the honor of serving as a soldier. It's also the name of a 1959 Soviet movie.
6) A World War II Classic Tune
Like many of the Red Army repertoire, "There March The Soldiers" focuses on themes from WWII.
7) Complete With Traditional Russian Dancing
This Alexandrov Ensemble performance is worth watching specifically for the impressive Russian dancing that accompanies it.
8) On Eurovision Believe It Or Not
No, the group wasn't Russia's official delegation to the competition, but they did perform at Eurovision with t.A.T.u., the Russian group that had previously participated in the competition in 2003. The two groups performed together at the first semifinal in 2009 which was taped in Moscow.
9) Check Out An Entire Concert
If these prior clips were not enough, tune into this hourlong concert performed in 2009. There are a 14 beautiful Russian songs to enjoy.
The downing of the Russian military plane transporting these talented singers is a cultural travesty. Honor the memory of those lost by enjoying their art; that's surely how they would want it.