Diary of a Russian Wife

8/06/2006

Russian Romances

The last couple weeks at work were very busy. We had to make changes in our presentation over and over and over again, and my co-worker (the one who smokes) asked me, "So, do you already feel like starting to smoke?"

"I'd rather skip smoking and start drinking", I joked in return.

My comment about starting to drink provoked a lot of other jokes about Russians and vodka from my co-workers. Well, as I already wrote here, Russia and vodka have a very strong connection in American minds, and you can’t fight it.

But in reality, we don't need vodka to have fun or handle stress. There is something much more powerful - music.

Once at a business tradeshow, my husband and I met a man - a sales rep of one big company. He travels around the world and seems to be an extremely busy man. He has a hobby – he plays a tuba in a local amateur quartet. He said, "With my job, you either plays a tuba or have a shrink. Playing a tuba is cheaper." Recently I have understood how true it is.

Last month I participated in preparing a Russian community event where we talked about and performed Russian romances of 18-20 centuries. In Russian language "romance" means a lyric song. Not necessarily about love. They can be about nature, nostalgia, etc. The audience was 50/50 Russian and American. Feedback from both parts of the audience was very positive. Americans were introduced to this new (for them) genre of music, and Russians had an opportunity to sing some old Russian songs together.

Cruel RomancesPrianishnikov, "Cruel Romances"
1881
The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

The next morning after my performance I woke up with a strong desire to start preparing a new musical event. I called other women from our crew – they felt same way. I've realized that the best part of this event was not the performance, but our rehearsals. We met every Friday night at 7 and rehearsed for a couple of hours. It was nice to get away from our everyday routines and do something different and creative. So, our idea of a one-time Russian music event has now transformed into some kind of club of Russian music lovers.

PS: Want to learn more about Russian romances? I would recommend the movie A Cruel Romance (1984) by Eldar Ryazanov to anyone who is interested in Russian music and culture or just enjoys drama. It is one of the saddest love stories I have ever seen, and music in this movie is unforgettable.

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