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From Russia, with song

by Nora Edinger

REGIONAL EDITOR

GRAFTON -- A tiny girl near the front wiggled her arms and legs in time to the music. Her head was bobbing from side to side.

She couldn't understand the words -- they were Slavonic. The music genre was likely new -- it was opera. But, she was clearly connecting with Russicum.

An a cappella group from St. Petersburg, Russia, Russicum was appearing at Anna Jarvis Elementary this week as part of a two-month U.S. tour. Public performances continue throughout the weekend.

"One of the children said to me this morning, 'I like that,' " said the Rev. Sherman Davidson, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church of Grafton and chair of the Taylor County Ministerial Association committee that brought the group to West Virginia.

"For a little child to say that, says it all."

The association brought the group to Taylor County primarily as a cultural exchange, but has been wowed by the music, he added.

"I just love the blend ... We're used to harmony singing in this area, but this is entirely different," Davidson said.

Indeed, the singers' voices are blended in tight operatic control so that soprano Elena Mouissikhina's voice floats above a vocal drone so smooth it sounds like instrumental accompaniment at times.

"Only the human voices praise the Lord," mezzo soprano Elena Mamaeva explained of why the church songs in the concert are a cappella. Bass-baritone Alexey Goloviznin does accompany the women on piano in some folk songs.

Davidson pointed out that unless local music lovers plan to travel to Russia, this may be the best opportunity to hear choir members live. The 50-member St. Petersburg Russian Orthodox Church Choir only tours in small groups so that the church is never left without a full choir.

The career vocalists are also members of the St. Petersburg Opera Drama.

There is no admission charge to the trio's main concert, 7 p.m. Saturday at Grafton High School. This concert will include the complete program of sacred and folk songs. A free-will offering will be taken. Compact discs of the entire choir in performance will be sold, as well.

Other performances will take place 7 p.m. Friday at the Meadowdale United Methodist Church, 3 p.m. Saturday at the Clarksburg Seventh Day Adventist building and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the First Baptist Church in Grafton.

Regional editor Nora Edinger can be reached at 626-1403 or by e-mail at nedinger@exponent-telegram.com.

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