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Moscow International Choir

In the Press

The Moscow International Choir makes headlines each year

From The Moscow Times Spring Guide, spring 2007:

Moscow International Choir

The United Nations might often fail to create harmony among the countries of the world, but it's no problem for the Moscow International Choir. Composed of members representing nearly a dozen countries, the choir is a perfect way for music lovers to perfect their singing abilities, meet people from around the world, and perform in benefit concerts for various Russian charities.

"There are few opportunities in Moscow for so many nationalities to come together without needing to speak each other's language,"; said Chantal Cooper, the choir's director.

The choir's participants hail from a vast variety of countries - among them Sweden, the Netherlands, England, France, the United States, Argentina, Iceland, and Russia - and represent a great swath of professions, from teachers and hairdressers to diplomats and even a heart surgeon.

While some of the choir's members are near-professionals with many years of choir experience, Cooper said that this should not scare of any neophytes wishing to give choral singing a shot.

"Beginners often underestimate their ability to sing, and can sometimes do very well if given an opportunity," she said, adding that new members often practice after-hours with older, more experienced ones.

The choir is conducted by Sergei Sidorenko, a graduate of the Moscow Conservatory, in a mix of Russian and English that seems to be understood by all. The repertoire runs the gamut from classical pieces such as Mozart's "Requiem" and Schubert masses to Christmas carols, African American spirituals, Russian folk songs and even a medley of songs from British musicals, including those by Andrew Lloyd Weber.

Concerts, which take place twice a year, in December and June, are the focal points for the choir's practice sessions. Cooper said that while the group sometimes gets off to a ragged start at the beginning of the season, performances are usually well above par by concert time.

"It never ceases to amaze how, from a hesitant beginning, the choir will always pull together and give a polished concert performance,"she said.

A large part of concert proceeds go to a charity decided upon by the choir’s members. Past charities have included Lifeline and the Kitezh Foundation.

For more information, contact Chantal Cooper at

Mozart's Requiem 'Against All Odds'
By Nathalie Cooper The Moscow News
Despite being an amateur group with a constantly changing membership and the usual scarcity of men, the Moscow International Choir is confident it can pull off the Classical masterpiece

Sergei Sidorenko laughed with exasperation as he asked the burned-out altos to sing their line for the eighth time. "This part is not tragic! You must sound heroic, not weepy!" he repeated, in an easily understandable mixture of English and Russian, sprinkling in expressive gestures and mimes to show them the effect of their trudging efforts. The tenor line was inaudible. Actually, no tenors had turned up to today's rehearsal. Most are on business trips. However, with only a week left before the Moscow International Choir (MIC) perform Mozart's Requiem, conductor Sergei Sidorenko appeared unfazed. A young graduate of the Moscow Conservatoire in choral and symphonic conducting, Mr. Sidorenko has been conducting this choir for five years and is sure of its performing abilities. Plus, he has a knack of pulling everything together at the last minute against all apparent odds.

Since 1998, the MIC has been welcoming singers of all ages, levels and nationalities to perform a varied selection of great works, such as Carl Orff's Carmina Burana and Handel's Messiah, as well as more obscure and unusual works like Bizet's relatively unknown but wonderfully stirring Te Deum.

"Usually we have a more serious classical work in the first part of the concert, for example a mass or requiem, and then something lighter for the second half" said Corinne Hainsworth, a member of the choir committee. "That way we satisfy different interests in the audience and in the choir".

"Last year we sang Gounod's Requiem and American Spirituals in the second half of the concert. They were really fun", commented Sophie Cooper, who works at the BBC. "I never realized that the harmonies were so beautiful. It was one of our best concerts. It's been interesting discovering so many different styles."

The MIC is approximately 50 percent Russians and 50 percent expats, of all ages and professions. Here, diplomats rub shoulders with students, teachers, businessmen, journalists and accountants, as well as a lone Russian hairdresser. The choir meets once or twice a week in St. Andrew's Church near the Moscow Conservatoire. This famous red brick Victorian edifice is known for its excellent acoustics and was even used as a recording studio in Soviet times, when most churches were either blown up or confiscated. For many it offers the perfect opportunity for meeting people on a regular basis, which is often quite hard to achieve while working in Moscow. "It's a great place to meet people outside work", says Natalia Wobst, a German-American who works for Language Link. Most importantly, it is a good way of working as a team without having to understand each other's language. Some get really carried away and start taking singing lessons to improve their performance, while others get together to practice difficult sections.

Sidorenko, the conductor, is a perfectionist and proves to be particularly thorough during rehearsals. He often refuses to move on until a passage has been completely mastered. As a former member of the Moscow Conservatoire's student Chamber Choir, he is used to the tough regime of its renowned choral conductor Boris Tevlin, who rules with an iron rod. Rehearsals there can last four hours at a stretch. The MIC, however, manages to retain a more laid-back atmosphere as singers and conductor share jokes and laughter throughout rehearsal. But a week before the concert panic set. Sidorenko looked pointedly at his watch as one of the basses snuck in almost an hour late.

"If you're going to come this late, you might as well not come at all", he announced. "On second thoughts, perhaps not", he muttered, to the relief of the small bass contingent.

"Some people may think Sergei gets too serious, and is too much of a perfectionist"", Sophie Cooper said. She has sung with MIC since 2000, "but it's important to feel that we're singing properly and learning something, and not just having a sing-song. The blend of professionalism and fun is just right."

MIC often finds itself in search of more male singers. "It's a shame we have fewer men than women", laughed another member of the committee. "I think men are shier about joining the choir. They think they may have to go through an embarrassing audition, which is not the case." There is usually no need, as new members soon realize whether or not they are able to cope. Fortunately, close to concert day, the choir hired young music students to support the tenors and basses. Ivan Lopatkin, one of the hired basses, always enjoys the experience. "It's such a welcome change to sing with this enthusiastic amateur choir after the mechanical rigidity of our professional choirs", he saidd. "Here we can let more emotion show through."

"There is a lack of amateur music groups in Moscow," said Corinne Hainsworth. "When I arrived here in the eighties I thought this was a musical Mecca and that there would be plenty or amateur orchestras and choirs where I could sing and play the viola. But I've realized that music here is only for the professionals. Maybe that's why we have so few Russian men in the choir."

Most of the proceeds from this year's concert will benefit the Kitezh Children's Community Network, whose representative, Francesca Hewitt, sings in the choir. The network offers foster homes to orphans in a village community atmosphere. The love and security thus provided help orphans recover from the scars of early traumas and build normal lives, a condition impossible in state institutions.

MIC performs Mozart's Requiem on April 24th. St Andrew's Church, 8 Voznesensky Pereulok, 7.30 pm

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