State Academic Russian Northern Folk Choir (Arkhangelsk)
The State Academic Russian Northern Folk Choir is a legend of the White Sea, and one of the most singular and renowned musical ensembles of Russia. Throughout its 85-year-long history the State Academic Russian Northern Folk Choir has always been faithful to its defining characteristic, namely a tremendous love of life and optimism. Operating nearly on a volunteer basis, studying and breathing new life into the unique Pomor folklore of the Russian North, presenting the arts of that part of Russia in different corners of the, as far as India and Japan, the ensemble has gained many admirers, who clapped their approval enthusiastically and saw Arkhangelsk artists off with their eyes.
The ensemble cannot quite be regarded as a typical choir, it is rather a folk theatre, which has amalgamated song, dance, music, and stage performance. The choir’s creation is a whole culture, its custodians are carefully kept and resurrected intonations of the past. Now the choir from Archangelsk introduces to traditional culture of the north-west of Russia from the Pskov region to the Republic of Komi.
The choir’s history begins as a local amateur folk glee club, directed by a local country school teacher Antonina Yakovlevna Kolotilova from Veliky Ustyug. With her well-set voice, excellent vocal skills and remarkable technique of playing on a stringed sitar folk instrument, she was charging the audience all over Veliky Ustug and its surroundings with remarkable energy, being by far more than a local glee community leader.
8 March, 1926, on the celebration of the International Women’s Day, has become a milestone date for the whole Russian North. This day the 20 participants of amateur folk ensemble gave the first public concert.
In 1935 Antonina Kolotilova was invited to work in the regional radio broadcasting committee. Together with 12 members of her ensemble she moved to Arkhangelsk. Later gift folk singers from various regions of Pomor North joined them. The unique ensemble began to travel around with concert tours which reached as far as Moscow and other cities of Russia. The artists gathered and processed various folk pieces, studied the local northern customs and tradition. Antonina Kolotilova invited Northern storytellers to participate in her programmes. In 1936 the Northern Folk Choir took part in the All-USSR Radio Festival. In 1940 it gained the status of a professional State group, which allowed supporting not only the choral group, but also own orchestra and ballet.
When the Second World War broke out, the choir was in Veliky Ustyug. It started giving concert at military units and hospitals of Volkhov, Leningrad and Karelia Fronts. During the war period the artists gave over 1100 fields and front line performances.
In 1948 Antonina Kolotilova received the State Prize of the USSR. In 1957 the ensemble became a prize-winner of the Moscow Youth and Students Festival, after that the choir started its successful activity abroad.
From 1960 to 2008 Nina Konstantinovna Meshko led the choir. This period was marked by an untiring creative effort, and a quest for new expressive forms to be recaptured within the singular northern folklore. For high professionality and brightness of style the choir received the honorary title of "Academic" in 1976.
The Northern Choir has always seen enlightenment as its important missionary component, and hence many of its programmes are devoted to children, youth and students audience. The choir has continuously travelled within Russia and abroad. "The most intimate parts of the French soul have been reached by artists from the Russian North. The audience became so powerfully affected that it refused to let the performers go, erupting in a storm of applause, many having tears in their eyes. It’s a triumph of the Russian Folk Art!" - commented French media on the choir’s performance.
The Northern Choir is a prize-winner of first-rate international festivals and competitions, a permanent participant of major events in Russia. For the first time the ensemble took part in the Easter Festival in Moscow in spring 2004. Thenceforth the choir becomes a pearl of the festival. In 2008 Svetlana Ignatieva, Nina Meshko’s student, the Honored Artist of Russia, a prize-winner of all-Russia and international competitions, Professor of the Gnessins Academy of Music, became the Art Director of the choir.
The ensemble consists of three groups: choir, dancing group and orchestra of Russian folk instruments. They rivet attention of audience to funny buffoonish dances and lyrical songs, to lively quadrilles and slow round dances, a cappella singing and instrumental compositions.
Professional costume-designers create costumes for artists according to the best examples from museum's collections of Arkhangelsk, Moscow, St. Petersburg.
The chief choreographer of the ensemble is Tatiana Gvozdeva, the Honored Cultural Worker of Russia.
The director of the orchestra of Russian folk instruments is Alexander Kachaev, the Honored Artist of Russia.