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In Scottish Edinburgh, the grandiose singer of the Moscow Art Trio made this impressive recording with four highly unusual femal voices, using no instrumental accompaniment whatsover. Journey is sound healing for overburdened, overworked minds – in other words, for almost all of us.
Vocals: Sergey Starostin, Sonia Iovkova, Tatiana Douparinova, Youlia Koleva, Nadia Vladimirova
Arrangements: Mikhail Alperin
“Music comes closest to meditation. Music is a way towards meditation and the most beautiful way. (Osho) – These words of the Indian master I remember today, when the album Journey is ready to meet the public. This music can bring you into the peace, peace for your soul. The ‘Vocal Family’ invites us to a celebration of sadness.” (M. Alperin)
Music to “Be” in
Journey is not an ordinary collection of songs. It consists of just one composition, in which Russian and Bulgarian traditions are blended together in a surprising new way. Musical director Mikhail Alperin combined four folksongs from both Russia and Bulgaria, which each have their own story to tell. Still, together they sound as one.
Two of the folk songs (“Travelling Tartars” from Russia, and “I was fooling the Turkish” from Bulgaria) form the main theme of this 35-minute composition. They are repeated throughout. The repetition combined with the intense sound of both Russian vocalist Sergey Starostin and four Bulgarian female vocalists gives Journey a strong, meditative quality. It is folk music in its most pure form – no instruments, just deeply felt stories being told.
The result is not just music to listen to, it is music to ‘be’ in. Mikhail Alperin explains: “When you listen to these songs they slowly become part of your whole being. The repetition pulls you into the music. I think all folk music in the world has this strong, meditative base. It has to do with the basic needs of folk people. They have a strong connection with nature. Meditation in the form of prayer – for sun or rain – is part of peasant life. Singing repetitive songs also helps them relax after a physical job; it brings them into a trance. They tell stories as part of their cultural tradition, using a meditative, musical basis. Nowadays city people often meditate as an intellectual decision. But for folk people it is based on true emotions; on who they are. Journey makes it possible for others to experience this as well.“
JOURNEY was recorded at Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh during the Edinburgh Festival 1999. It consists of 35 minutes of music – brought together in one composition. The last track – track 8 – holds 20 minutes of silence, leaving it up to the listener to experience this in his or her own way.
Just Another Hotel Room
Being on tour isn’t always so much fun as people may think. When the Bulgarian Voices – ANGELITE became such a success that a world tour was inevitable, life changed for all musicians taking part. The Bulgarian Singers, their Russian fellow-singer Sergey Starostin and the musical-mind behind it all – the Russian composer and pianist Mikhail Alperin ended up spending many days (and nights) together in faraway countries.
Of course they could start drinking, have casual affairs or totally immerse themselves in the excitements of life abroad. But even this type of fun has its limits. And so they ended up spending lots of time together. Eating, drinking, talking, laughing. They became a true vocal family: which not only shared feelings through common history and their performance on stage – it went way beyond that. Into something only music can hold.
And so one day – in just another hotel room – they embarked on this new musical journey. Like any family getting caught up in conversation – finding each other in thoughts or feelings – they got caught up in their mutual love of the song. The girls gently started singing a Bulgarian folk story, Sergey joined in with a deeply felt Russian ballad and composer Mikhail Alperin was lost in the surprise of it all.
The coming together of the music, the blend of the two folk traditions – both with their own story – it was of such intensity and beauty the vocal family felt it should be heard by more. During their performance at the Edinburgh festival in August 1999 one of the songs immediately became an audience-favourite. A recording was made on the spot, at Grey Friars Church in Edinburgh. The result is a collection of love and folk songs so pure they seem to linger on forever. Giving you a glimpse of a vocal family that shares more than just music.
The main theme on this CD is formed by the following two songs: “Travelling Tartars” and “I was fooling the Turkish”.
- “Travelling Tartars“: This song is about the Tartars, a Mongolian tribe which invaded Russia during the 13th – 15th century. On their way back from Russia they take along hostages. Many of these slaves turn out to be related to the Tartars. When one Tartar sees he has taken his sister hostage he gives her back her freedom immediately. Another Tartar doesn’t realise he has taken his mother-in-law home. But when his wife hears the woman singing she knows it’s her mother. She wants to give her everything they own. But the mother refuses. All she wants is to go to back Russia and be free.
- “I was fooling the Turkish“: This is a love-song about a Bulgarian girl and a Turkish boy. He longs for her deeply; she keeps on joking him. The more he expresses his love, the more she fools him into believing they are not meant to be together. But the boy persists. ‘Marry me, and become part of a true Turkish family’, he says. But the girl does not give in. ‘I want to be a proud Bulgarian, not a proud Turk’, she replies.
- “Sun Prayer“: In this song two lovers are praying to the sky above. ‘Please, sun’, the girl says: ‘Don’t go down. Stay a little longer. Let this day last.’ The boy has a different prayer. ‘Go away, dear sun’, he says. ‘Please. And let the night begin as soon as possible.’
- “Sergey’s ballad“:This is a village-ballad from old Russia. Russian men in those days had their own songs: existing ballads with lyrics and emotions that felt close to them. These ballads became part of their identity: when people heard the songs in the fields they knew exactly who was singing. In this ballad the singer’s wife is seriously ill. ‘Please god’, he says, ‘make her as ill as possible. I will then go into the forest and find the best tree, with the best possible wood to make the best coffin in town. And I will put this into a deep hole to bury her forever…’ The ballad has two interpretations. It can be seen as a way of ‘singing out the poison’. If you give expression to the worst possible things only good can follow. In a more historical sense the song is about unequal love. Russian village-marriages were often based on need, not passion. Young men married women who could work hard. Usually these wives were much older. As time passed these marriages turned into tragedies.