A look at Rus­sian en­sem­ble wiped out by crash

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

MOSCOW: The Rus­sian mil­i­tary choir that lost most of its singers in a plane crash Sun­day is of­ten de­scribed as the Krem­lin’s “singing weapon.” The Alexan­drov En­sem­ble, some­times re­ferred to as the Red Army choir, was founded in the 1920s. It won global fame with its pa­tri­otic reper­toire dur­ing Soviet times, but in re­cent years has sought to cater to modern au­di­ences. Many of its per­for­mances have gone vi­ral, in­clud­ing a rous­ing ren­di­tion of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” by singers in full mil­i­tary dress at the open­ing of the 2014 Win­ter Olympics in Sochi.

Sixty-four mem­bers of the en­sem­ble, in­clud­ing di­rec­tor Valery Khalilov, were head­ing from Sochi to Rus­sia’s air base in Syria to per­form a New Year’s con­cert for troops when their plane crashed into the Black Sea on Sun­day. All 92 peo­ple on board are pre­sumed dead.

“It’s dif­fi­cult to grasp the scale of that tragedy,” Moscow city’s cul­ture de­part­ment head Alexan­der Ki­bovsky said in tele­vised re­marks. “They were rais­ing pride for our cul­ture, our coun­try, across the en­tire world.” As word of the crash spread Sun­day, peo­ple placed bou­quets of flow­ers out­side the en­sem­ble’s Moscow head­quar­ters.

“We all loved this en­sem­ble,” said Moscow res­i­dent Mark Novikov. “We val­ued it. They are our broth­ers, our friends, our col­leagues.” The 186-mem­ber en­sem­ble in­cludes a band and a danc­ing troupe along with the choir that had about 70 singers. Vik­tor Yeliseyev, head of the ri­val choir of the Rus­sian Na­tional Guard, said most of the Alexan­drov En­sem­ble’s singers were on the plane. Among the few who stayed back was soloist Vadim Ananyev, whose wife just de­liv­ered a baby and pleaded with him to remain at home to help. The cou­ple has three small chil­dren. “I feel as if I were hit over the head,” he said. “I still can’t be­lieve it. They are telling me now I was born with a silver spoon.” The In­ter­fax news agency said an­other mem­ber of the choir was de­nied ac­cess to board at the last minute be­cause his for­eign pass­port has ex­pired.

The choir was founded in 1928 by com­poser and con­duc­tor Alexan­der Alexan­drov, and af­ter his death in 1946 was led by his son, Boris Alexan­drov. Alexan­drov, who headed the choir for more than 40 years, made it fa­mous world­wide. Pavel Ko­gan, the di­rec­tor of Moscow State Aca­demic Sym­phonic Or­ches­tra, de­scribed the choir as “a sym­bol of the coun­try.” “It was im­pos­si­ble to imag­ine what hap­pened, even in a night­mare,” he said, ac­cord­ing to Snob on­line pub­li­ca­tion.

—AFP

MOSCOW: A woman places a photo of a vic­tim as flow­ers are laid in trib­ute in front of the home stage build­ing of the Alexan­drov En­sem­ble (The Red Army Choir), in Moscow yes­ter­day.

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