Friends of the Rockbridge Choral Society
  Vol. 20                                          ONLINE  ONLINE  ONLINE                                 February 2017    
Providing financial support   since 1999 for The Rockbridge Choral Society and The Rockbridge Youth Chorale


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February Birthdays in Music
 
Jean Langlais 2/15/1907

Sir Hubert Parry 2/27/1848
Johnny Cash 2/26/1932

RCS 2016/2017 Concert Season -  
April 2, 2017 - Rachmaninoff: Vespers, aka, All-Night Vigil
Lexington
Presbyterian Church,
7 PM

One Fun Thing
     A Brahma Bantam (Chinese-breed) chicken in Germantown, Maryland named Jokgu (Korean) plays
America the Beautiful on an electronic keyboard using her beak. Jokgu's owner, Shannon Myers, says it took about two weeks to teach the feathered prodigy to play the song using a clicker training tech nique. But wait, there's more. Jokgu has a band, th e Flockstars. Only in America!      
Jokgu.
  Listen here.
One Thing
to See
        The BBC production titled The Joy of Rachmaninoff - documentary recounting the life of Sergei Rachmaninoff and his music. See here.   Run time is about 58 minutes. Worth it!
     PS. One of the pianists in this film put the bug in Putin's ear for the acquisition of Villa Senar.



Charpentier, Vivaldi, Scarlatti and a Rainy Sunday Afternoon
        The RCS had an appreciative audience for their Sunday, January 22 concert in spite of the dreary weather outside. As always, our orchestra was superb and our soloists did not disappoint. We move on to Rachmaninoff in April. Rehearsals have begun for the All Night Vigil (The Vespers) . The singers are enjoying this music and working hard to sing in a new language for most- Russian. No matter. This really is stunning music. The harmonies fairly shimmer and we hope you will mark your calendars now to join us on April 2.
From Valhalla to Moscow?
      What could a little New York town have in common with a Russian metropolis like Moscow?
Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff.
Bet you'd never guess - the final remains of Sergei Vasilievich Rachman inoff. The composer for whom modern Russians h ave such great affection is buried on a hillside in a cemetery in Valhalla, NY, along with some other notables including Yankees' star first baseman Lou Gehrig, bandleader Tommy Dorsey, and author Ayn Rand. And, the Russians want him back, at least what remains. To this, his great-granddaug hter, Susan Sophia Rachmaninoff Volkonskaya Wanamaker says "nyet". She believes that the Russian cultural minister, Vladimir Medinsky, is using Rachmaninoff's personal decision to leave a revolting Russia as a "platform to spout Russian nationalism". Rachmaninoff was of the Russian aristocracy. The Bolshevics did not approve. In 1917, Lenin's regime seized the family estate, Ivanovka, then owned by Sergei, and burned it to the ground. Rachmaninoff did not approve. He and his family boarded a train for Stockholm. He would never return.
      One hundred years ago this year, a mere 3 years after the completion of his haunting choral work, The Vespers , Rachmaninoff fled Bolshevism and his beloved homeland for which he would grieve the rest of his life. After living in exile and perfecting his keyboard skills in Sweden and Denmark, he arrived in Manhattan in late 1918. There he began to tour throughout the US and later Europe. Great composer that he was, Rachmaninoff was as well-known in his time as a concert pianist, some say the greatest of the 20 th century. He supported his family mostly by touring for the remainder of his life.
      Rachmaninoff's grave may be the most visited at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla. Visitors leave mementos. A cappella groups come to serenade where he rests adjacent to his wife and daughter. Apparently, the Russians are only interested in Sergei and not his family. Great-granddaughter Susan Sophia thinks the idea that the composer would be separated from his family, which he fought to keep together in the wake of a revolution and later a World War, is "simply unconscionable". Sounds like Sergei is staying put in the USA.

Well if We Can't Have Sergei... Perhaps His House
        The Russians are persistent on the subject of their beloved Rachmaninoff. In 2013, Russian president Vladimir Putin reportedly commissioned a report on the possible repatriation of the composer's home, Villa Senar, near Lake Lucerne in Switzerland, and then made plans to acquire it. This estate was Rachmaninoff's summer home for most of the 1930's. He reportedly searched for years while touring, hoping to find a place where he might replicate the creative inspiration he felt at his Russian family home, Ivanovka, before the Revolution. Only World War II could drive him from Senar.
            Upon the death of Rachmaninoff's grandson Alexander, the last owner of Villa Senar, the estate passed to four great-grandchildren. Among these heirs, there is resistance to Russia's overtures to purchase the property and its contents, which include many of the composer's manuscripts, diaries, archival papers, works of art, and the piano upon which he composed his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. In 2015, Russia's pursuit of the purchase was put on hold, due, in part, to the imposition of international sanctions in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, and to the concerns of the Rachmaninoff heirs. The Sergei Rachmaninoff Foundation continues to protect and preserve Villa Senar on behalf of the heirs.

Villa Senar
Friends of the Rockbridge Choral Society
communication@rcs.org
Rockbridge Choral Society
PO Box 965
Lexington, VA 24450