Russian vocal a cappella ensemble LYRA returns to Naperville

  • LYRA will give its only concert in Naperville at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 3, 2019 at the spectacular Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church.Courtesy of LYRA

    LYRA will give its only concert in Naperville at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 3, 2019 at the spectacular Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church.Courtesy of LYRA

 
Natalia Dagenhart

"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms" (1 Peter 4:10.) The members of the Russian vocal a cappella ensemble LYRA serve audiences of different countries and share with them their outstanding vocal skills and the depth of the Russian soul. Each concert is a journey discovering the enormous musical heritage of the Russian Orthodox Church as well as traditional Russian folk music. Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church is happy to welcome back this great vocal ensemble with its only concert in Naperville, which will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 3, 2019.

This concert is part of the group's highly anticipated annual American tour that will start at the end of April, 2019. It will be LYRA's second time visiting Naperville. "We are extremely happy to welcome LYRA back and can't wait to see them perform at Ss. Peter and Paul in May," said Matthew S. Sprinkle, Director of Sacred Music Department at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church of Naperville. "The previous concert took place on April 29, 2015 also at our church and brought a lot of attention to this group. It was a sold-out concert."

LYRA is a unique vocal ensemble that is popular not only in Russia, but also in Europe and in the United States. All singers are professional musicians, singing in different churches of St. Petersburg. Some are also soloists at musical theatres of the city. Since 1994, this community of professional musicians has introduced the enormous musical heritage of the Russian Orthodox Church and traditions of Russian folk music to everyone who is interested in Russian history and culture. This choral community includes twenty unique and very talented professional vocalists and choral singers who perform in smaller groups of soloists. This spring, an a cappella group of four choral singers from the LYRA vocal ensemble will give their beautiful concerts in various towns and cities as part of their annual tour in the United States. The names of the singers are: Aleksandr Kudriashov, Bass, Tatiana Melnikova, Mezzo-Soprano, Dennis Patsiuk, Tenor, and Sergey Tupitsyn, Baritone.

What makes this vocal ensemble from St. Petersburg, Russia, so interesting and unique? Why is it worth spending your entire evening on May 3 listening to Russian Orthodox and folk music? A quick answer might be this: LYRA will demonstrate the heights of what the Russian Orthodox vocal school has created over centuries and also will surprise you with the quality of the singers' finest a cappella voices, professional acting, and a superb concert program. Interesting and interactive communication with the audience between the songs will also bring a touch of warmth and unity between the soloists and the listeners.

In anticipation of this incredible concert, journalist Natalia Dagenhart had a beautiful opportunity to conduct an online interview with Sergey Tupitsyn, manager for LYRA and one of the singers.

Q. Dear Sergey, thank you for finding time to give this interview. LYRA hasn't been in Naperville for four years. The audience members still remember your previous concert in our town. Will the program of the 2019 tour differ a lot from the program that you presented a few years ago?

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A. Thank you for the opportunity to say a few words about the coming concert. Yes, the program this time will be different. We always try to bring new music. However, since we are from Russia, our aim is to bring a piece of Russian culture and Russian music as a part of Russian culture to people in the countries we tour around. So, the program will consist of hymns of the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian folk songs. We will also perform some choral compositions of Russian classical composers.

Q. How long will your annual American tour be this time? How many concerts are you planning to give?

A. Actually, our group travels in America usually twice a year. This spring, we will be touring throughout the Midwest (IL, IA, MN, WI, MI, IN) where we will present over thirty concerts in late April through early June.

Q. Can you please tell me about the soloists? Last time you had two female and two male singers. Why will the group have only one female soloist this year?

A. Indeed, this year the content of the group is quite unusual for us --three men and just one lady. LYRA performs normally in mixed groups of four --five singers. At the same time, a fairly large portion of Russian choral heritage is represented by male singing only and there are quite a few choral works in our repertoire that were composed for a male choir or ensemble. Eventually, we are pleased to introduce some of these works to our audience. Tatiana Melnikova will sing the part of the 1st tenor that, we believe, she does much better than many men can do! One can prove it by coming to one of our concerts. We will be happy to see you among our listeners! Also, a new CD will be introduced to the audience.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Q. A cappella singing is extremely challenging because each singer has to hear not only his own voice, but also the voices of everyone else in the group. Together, they have to build a harmonic ensemble where the voices line up in a sequence of correctly toned chords. Singing without accompaniment makes this task extremely challenging. How do you achieve such mastership in delivering to your audiences perfectly prepared a cappella performances?

A. Wow! I am impressed with your awareness of the nuances of a cappella singing. Indeed, singing in an a cappella ensemble requires of the members different skills in comparison with singing with instrumental accompaniment. Singing solo is also quite different thing. Thank you for your compliment on our performance, by the way. How do we achieve the quality? The answer is -- easily. It takes about 7 years in music school, 5 years of conservatory and over 10 years of traveling with a cappella group. Seriously, each of our members is an accomplished, well-trained musician with a large experience in singing a cappella.

Q. Thank you for your compliment, Sergey! I have a degree in teaching music in elementary and middle school and it helps me to write articles about music. Actually, how often do you practice as a group and how long usually are your practices?

A. Each of the singers has a job back home. For instance, Tatiana is a soloist of the Belarus State TV and Radio Choir. Alexander is a soloist of the Saint-Petersburg State Philharmonic for Children. Denis is a music arranger and a composer besides his work as a soloist in different musical projects. So, we do not practice on a regular basic. We simply have no time for it. In addition, one should take into consideration that the members of LYRA live not only in different cities, but some of us live in different countries. For example, Sergey and Alexander live in St. Petersburg, Russia, whereas Tatiana and Denis live in Belarus. It would be very tricky to get together even once a week for rehearsals. But, honestly, it is really not needed. As I said all of our members are fine musicians with large performance experience. We normally get together for two-three weeks before each tour or a recording session in a studio.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Q. Performing Russian Orthodox music is not only about professionally delivering the musical sounds. The main component of it is the religious verses that are the basis of such compositions. The singers have to sing from their heart. How do you work on delivering the deep meaning of this music to your foreign listeners who don't understand both Russian and the old Slavic language?

A. You are quite right. Singing sacred music is not only about professionalism but also about spirituality. I am not supposed to talk about everyone's spiritual feelings (it is a very personal thing), but each of us sings in a church back home. So, we not only perform sacred music in concerts, we also know the significance of each hymn and its meaning in the worship.

Q. Do all the singers in the group belong to the Russian Orthodox Church?

A. We have representatives of different Christian denominations in our choir community.

Q. In this program, you will also present Russian national songs. Tell me more about it. Do you have to use a different manner of singing while performing folk music?

A. I suppose you are asking about folk songs, right? We sing them not in originals but in re-arrangements and adaptations for the classical way of singing. So, shortly answering your question -- NO; the entire program will be performed with the classical singing.

Q. What do you expect from this tour? How do you like American audiences? Also, which places in Chicago do you plan to visit?

A. We enjoy traveling. In March-April we were on a 45-day tour around Europe. Audiences are very welcoming everywhere. Music is known as an international language. We love touring around the States. We have been in the US over 30 times. I guess we might have seen more of America than an average American would. We are going to do quite a few performances in and around Chicago -- Naperville, Aurora, Crystal Lake, Belvidere, Dixon, Rockford, Zion, and Park Forest. Americans are very cordial people. We have many friends all around your country. What do we expect from this tour? A lot of fun!

The Naperville audience members expect a lot of fun from this concert too. The magnificent sounds of Russian Orthodox music will add to our town spirituality and wisdom, and the sounds of Russian folk music will bring pleasant emotions and happy feelings.

For tickets and information, please go to https://www.sspeterandpaul.net/worship/concertseries/ or https://www.facebook.com/pg/SSPPNaperville/events/, call 630-718-2114, or purchase them at the office located at 36 N. Ellsworth, Naperville, IL 60540. Tickets are: $10 for students and obstructed view, $20 general admission, and $30 preferred seating. After the event, Director of Sacred Music Department Matthew S. Sprinkle invites everyone to a desert reception where you will be able to meet singers and talk to them. Besides that, the ensemble will also introduce its new CD.

Natalia Dagenhart

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