I have tried not to enhance or distort what has been presented here and have tried to paint a picture as true as my memory would allow. There are several things that sound as if they have come out of a war novel but, to the best of my knowledge, they are all true. One has to remember that under stress, and in the heat of battle, there are those that rise to the heights and perform heroic acts, even to the extent of sacrificing their lives to protect those of their comrades’.
The original intent of this web site was to honor the memory of N.F. Kostruckoff, his chorus, and dancers: LEST WE FORGET, and knowledge and information be lost. My webmaster, A.J. Heller, has strongly advised me to expand the web site to include other Cossack choruses and Cossack/Russian history. This advice, coupled with the neverending encouragement and support of my wife, Kyung Yong, and our daughter, Georgina, has led to a greatly expanding web site.
Prior to the First World War, and the Russian Revolution, the only place to hear Russian choral singing in America was in the Russian Orthodox Churches, which were built by Russian immigrants between 1880 and 1910. After the Russian Revolution, there was an exodus of Russians fleeing the Bolsheviks and communism. This exodus opened a floodgate, bringing out of Russia not only the Cossack choruses, but also many fine singers, both male and female, leading to a golden age of Russian choral singing in western Europe and America that lasted until the outbreak of World War II in Europe but continued on in America. I add recordings to show the wealth of fine Russian choral singing that was to be heard between the late 1920s and 1940 in western Europe and America.
N._. Vasilieff, conductor
In The Village:
Beneath the Snow My Russia Lies:
The Russian Imperial Singers
Russian Orthodox Cathedral Choir of Paris
N.P. Afonsky, conductor
Yes, God Is Risen (D._. Bortniansky):
Thou God We Praise (D._. Bortniansky):
D._. Aristoff, conductor
Glory to God in the Highest (Feofana):
He Is Worthy:
This is the Last Day I Shall Be With You (A._. Alexandrovich, tenor solo):
Yesterday I Was Invited to a Dinner (A._. Alexandrovich, tenor solo with Balalaika Orchestra):
Boyar Russian Choir
E._. Swerkoff, conductor
Farewell to the Volga (P._. Popoff, alto solo):
Does He Love Me?:
I Am So Tired!:
I add this to this section four recordings by F.I. Chaliapin. The first two, accompanied by the Paris Russian Opera Chorus, accompanied by D._. Aristoff; the second two pieces, accompanied by the Russian Orthodox Cathedral Choir of Paris, N.P. Afonsky, conductor. These four pieces represent the art and refinement of Russian Orthodox church music at its highest.
OPEN THE GATES OF REPENTANCE (A._. Wedel, recorded 1/21/1931)
NOW LET US DEPART (M._. Strokin, recorded 1/22/1931)
THE CREED (A.A. Archangelsky, recorded 3/1/1932)
GLORY TO THEE O GOD (A.T. Gretchaninov, recorded 3/1/1932)
This piece is from Liturcia Domestica, Op.79, and makes use of an organ, which are not used in the Russian Orthodox Church as all singing is a capella. The use of the organ, however, enhances the magnitude and intensity of the piece. Chaliapin has also recorded this piece without the organ, but I have not heard that recording.
At the end of the Second World War, a second wave of Russians fleeing communism and the Soviet Union arrived in western Europe, and then in America (USA and Canada). This second wave of immigrants created a great pool of singers and allowed the Cossack choruses to replace older singers and those who wished to stop touring. This pool of singers also allowed the churches to replenish and expand their choirs. During the summer of 1959, I.M. Wereschagin (among the biographies) and I visited seven or eight Russian churches in the northern New Jersey area to see the churches and hear the choirs. At that time, each church we visited had a good choir with between 20-40 members. In 1981, returning home after living fifteen years in Europe (three in Berlin and twelve in Vienna), I attended a memorial service for a Russian neighbor. There were only four or five singers. I was shocked to hear that those singing in Russian sang with heavy American accents. This indicates to me that those of Russian descent in America, though perhaps not abandoning Orthodoxy or losing the ability to speak and sing in Russian. In some areas, there is a movement to have the liturgy sung in English. If this trend continues, by the middle of this century, the Russian Orthodox Church will be almost completely Americanized. But, I believe, even at that time, there will be several throwback churches that will do their best to continue to sing in the Orthodox church Slavonic. Currently there are still churches that continue to sing in the language of our forefathers, though for the most part, their choirs are dominated by female voices.
This web site is not only a history of the Cossack choruses outside of Russia, but also a eulogy to them. Unless a philanthropic organization or very rich person, for whom money is no object, would like to resurrect and keep a professional Cossack chorus, with its traditions and roots going back to czarist Russia, alive in America, then it is eternal memories and rest in peace for these wonderful choruses and their marvelous singers and dancers.
I have given my opinion and have made several assumptions which are based on my upbringing, schooling, and professional experience. I know that there are those that will not totally agree with me, and that is the way it should be, for what a boring and sterile place this world would be if we were always in complete agreement.
In closing, I would like to say that as an historian, I have not tried to write or re-write history, but to state the facts as they appear to me from my vantage point and place in time.
The archives of N.F. Kostrukoff are currently housed in a library in California. We are trying to access them but, to date, have had no success. They could prove to be a treasure trove of information. If accessible, we will add what is relevant to this website. We are also trying to obtain a video tape or DVD of the chorus’s performance on Ed Sullivan’s Toast of the Town television show.
If anyone has information about members of the chorus that are not listed, and can substantiate this information with a picture, program or other memorabilia, we would be proud to add it to the website and, of course, give credit where it is due. This information can be emailed to us as a comment, via our contact page, or directly, at firstname.lastname@example.org.