Russian culture tours area

Lilting Russian folk music filled the air and children’s ears at Harmar Elementary School on Monday afternoon as the Russian folk trio, “Moscow Nights,” performed many Russian tunes, including a theme from “The Nutcracker.”

Fifth grader Nondyce Gulick, 10, said the performance wasn’t something she was used to.

“It was a unique kind of music you wouldn’t hear everyday in America,” she said.

Harmar Principal Cheryl Cook said while the school has assemblies, this performance was a little different from others.

“We do have assemblies that we expose children to live performances,” she said. “The difference is that it is instruments they’re not familiar with…To see a balalaika is a real treat.”

Kenneth Carpenter, 9, a fourth grader, said he liked seeing the different instruments.

“They’re instruments you wouldn’t see everyday,” he said.

“They say something about how Russia is unique from other places,” added Gulick.

The performance was sponsored by the Artsbridge Artists-on-Tour series, and the trio will tour elementary schools in Wood County, W.Va. and Washington and Morgan counties in Ohio throughout the week.

Gerri Torres, arts education director for Artsbridge, said the group is wonderful about interacting with the children and making the performance fun. She added that most children are more aware of where Russia is, with the 22nd annual winter Olympics just concluding.

“This particular group is really wonderful for giving our kids the opportunity to hear music from other countries,” Torres said. “It’s really well-timed with the Sochi Olympics. The kids are really aware of where Russia is; it brings Russia to them.”

Cook agreed that the timing was perfect.

“I was very pleased (with the performance) and again, the timing was just serendipitous,” she said.

Vitaliy Bezrodnov plays the bayan accordion for the trio. The trio was initially formed under his direction in Kaluga, Russia in the late 1980’s where he attended the Kaluga Music Conservatory. After completing his studies, he successfully reorganized the group in the United States in 1996.

The trio last performed in Marietta in the late 1990’s. Bezrodnov said the town hasn’t changed much.

“It looks like Marietta,” he said. “It’s a pretty historical town…We plan on visiting (Marietta College). It’s intriguing that it’s a college town.”

Bezrodnov said each performance’s success depends on the audience.

“I guess how it goes, the energies are in the audience,” he said, adding that if the audience “reacts good” then the performance goes better.

He said that as professionals, “You have to put your good work into it.”

Fourth grader Esther Starner, 10, said she enjoyed learning a little about the tradition of some songs and instruments while hearing the music.

“I liked how they talked about the tradition and how they showed us how they play around Russia,” Starner said.

Nathan Best, 10, a fifth grader, said the tempo of the music is a draw.

“I loved how it was fast music,” he said.

Cook said that though the music is different from what most children are used to, it didn’t seem to matter.

“Music is a universal language,” she said. “Obviously (the kids) were responding, and (the music is) so rhythmic…It’s folk music; it’s a get everyone involved kind of thing. (Bezrodnov) is used to working with children. He had a good sense of humor; he was having fun…Everyone could enjoy the music.”