27 August 2009

Rivers of music

Down the Volga, Mother Volga (Вниз по матушке по Волге) is a Russian folk song, here performed by Feodor Chaliapin (and a choir). The scene is from a 1960 U.S.S.R film Girls’ Summer (Девичья весна).
This is a vocal arrangement; note that no instruments are employed.
In Russia, folk songs are merged with religious chants and choral songs. It remains difficult to tell a folk song apart from a choral song. As the Orthodox church imposed, for several centuries, a ban on any instrumental music, all talented musicians wrote vocal arrangements exclusively for the church.
In this way, the entire musical soul of the Russian people was poured into the Orthodox church. There were no instruments; the musical arrangements were carried by voices alone. This made church service a personal and emotional experience that can only be compared to that of African-Americans singing gospels at mass.
In Russia, to quote Chekhov, the village church was the only place where a peasant could experience something beautiful. And so much more than that; peasants were not performing, they were creating. Their singing gave life to a stream of music and they made it flow on all the way to the enchanted sea.

1 comment:

  1. The lyrics of the song are simple and repetitive: down and along dear Volga, the weather is changing imperceptibly, one can only just see and hear, one little boat is turning black.
    A storm is being announced; the singing grows like waves gather before the storm.