The sound of culture: Concert to explore Russian history through music

Posted: Thursday, July 22, 2010

Central Kenai Peninsula residents are in for a musical treat tonight at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center's narrated concert exploring Russian music and history, "From the Great Gate of Kiev to a Night in Moscow."

Photo By M. Scott Moon
Photo By M. Scott Moon
Cheri Smith of Othello, Wash., inspects on Wednesday icons from the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church on display at the Kenai Cultural and Visitors Center. A special musical presentation is planned for the center tonight.

"We wanted to do a concert that was almost like a lecture demonstration style so we could talk about the relationship to Russian music and it's relationship to the Russian Orthodox Church," said Laura Forbes, director of programs and exhibits at the center.

As part of the center's summer speaker series, the one-hour program will be presented in the gallery amongst the "Sacred Space, Sacred Time" exhibit, an interpretive display of history, art and culture interspersed with religious icons and relics from the Russian Orthodox Church. The collection is being shown at the Kenai Cultural and Visitors Center throughout September to store artifacts while the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church undergoes restoration this summer.

Local musicians, including Maria Allison, Sue Biggs, Kent Peterson and Russian-born Natasha Weissenberg, will all be performing.

"When people are sitting in there listening to our music they can see the exhibit all around them," said Allison, who will be playing keyboard during the concert. "They sort of have this set up that makes you feel like you're in a cathedral museum."

Allison said the concert will include Russian music from classical to gypsy to folk.

"We have a nice collection of all kinds of variety of Russian music," she said. "We have picked some music from Russian artists people would know and sacred music from the Russian Orthodox church."

But there is one song in particular people will recognize from an American cultural institution -- Broadway.

"We have one piece that we're going to be doing from "Fiddler on the Roof" about the Russian immigrants who left Russia and came to the U.S.," Allison said, calling "Sunrise, Sunset" an American take on Russian music.

Forbes said the last piece of the show, "Moscow Nights," is going to be "really fun."

This song, written in 1955 by composer Vasily Solovyov-Sedoy and poet Mikhail Matusovsky, is a well known song in Russia, much like "Oh! Susanna" in America, Forbes said.

It will be performed by the Kalgin Island Quartet, comprised of Allison, Tammy Vollum-Matturro, Susie Lee and Ida Pearson, and sung by soprano Audra Faris.

Forbes said part of the summer speaker series is to give a broader perspective of the exhibit.

"It's great to be able to explore a topic even further than what's on the walls and in the cases," she said.

The concert starts at 7 p.m. in the gallery of the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center tonight with refreshments served afterwards. Admission is $6, with all proceeds going to the restoration of the Russian Orthodox Church and programs at the center.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at

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