On November 10th, the Yale Russian Chorus Alumni will hold a 60th Anniversary Gala Concert. The concert, which features over 100 alumni singers under founding conductor Denis Mickiewicz, takes place at 2:30 pm in Woolsey Hall (500 College Street, New Haven).
The Yale Russian Chorus performs both sacred and secular works as well as roof-raising Cossack songs. YRC alumni congregate in New Haven from all over the world; in past years, YRC alumni attendees have included former U.S. Solicitor General Drew Days; the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, former Yale chaplain and senior minister of Riverside Church, New York; and Curtin W. Kamman, a former deputy assistant secretary of state who helped re-establish diplomatic relations with the Baltic States.
The Yale Russian Chorus formed in 1953, in the midst of the Cold War. Denis Mickiewicz, a Latvian student at the Yale School of Music (now professor emeritus at Duke University), was invited by George Litton, president of the Yale Russian Club, to give a presentation on Russian choral music. Mickiewicz arrived with sheet music, a guitar, and two bottles of vodka, and said, “It’s better to sing than talk.” Soon thereafter, the YRC was born.
Over its five decades, the chorus has made over 16 U.S.S.R. tours and released 14 recordings. They have performed all over the world for government leaders ranging from France’s Charles de Gaulle, Russia’s Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, and U.S. President’s Reagan, Bush, and Clinton.
Dean Robert Blocker of the Yale School of Music has praised their enduring spirit, noting “the YRC’s ability to weather ups and downs over half a century is due to its commitment to the best music only.”
Admission to the concert is free, and no tickets are required. The concert is presented by the Yale School of Music. For more information, call the Yale School of Music concert office at 203 432-4158 or visit the event page.
About the Yale Russian Chorus
The Yale Russian Chorus is a tenor-bass a cappella choral ensemble specializing in sacred and secular Slavic choral music. Chorus members are Yale University students from a variety of academic disciplines. Founded in 1953 by Denis Mickiewicz, a Yale student at the time, the YRC is recognized as one of the world’s premier performance ensembles of Slavic music today.
The repertoire spans the twelfth century to the twenty-first, and stretches across Eastern Europe from Slovakia to Georgia, including a variety of sacred and secular settings. These include ancient chant, folk songs, and works by Tchaikovsky Bortnyansky, Kedrov, and Chesnokov, to name a few. In 1999, the YRC also performed Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky with the Yale Symphony Orchestra and the Yale Glee Club.
Performances in the past have been held at the White House, the Smithsonian, and the Russian Cultural Center in Washington, D.C.; Carnegie Hall, the Winter Garden, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan; and Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral in Boston. The Yale Russian Chorus has also gone on tour in Ukraine, Russia, and throughout the United States, has recorded two high profile CDs, has cultivated major events such as the Slavic Choral Festival at Yale, and has attracted the attention of the professional arts media.