Monday, February 13, 2017

Running Silent and Deep: The Russian Red Army Choir and "It's a Long Way to Tipperary"

This random number, It's A Long Way to Tipperary, is the Red Army choir singing an Irish tune which was used in the movie Das Boot. Whether the song was recorded in the 1940s or specifically for the movie I haven't been able to determine. The Red Army Choir, however, has two incarnations.

The first is known officially as the Alexandrov Ensemble and consists of a male choir, an orchestra and a dance ensemble. It was founded in 1928, possibly by Alexander Vasilyevich Alexandrov and encouraged by Stalin, or possibly as a combined effort in which Alexandrov ended up as artistic director. They initially did tours, entertaining the troops in far flung regions of the Soviet Union and mostly performing original Soviet music. In 1948 they performed an unforgettable concert of German and Russian music in Berlin (prior to the construction of the Berlin Wall), and in 1990 they joined Roger Waters' performance of The Wall to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall. In December 2016, the Ensemble was hit with tragedy when 64 members, all but three of its choir, perished in the crash of a military airplane carrying them to perform a concert in war-torn Syria.

The second is known as the MVD Ensemble, which was founded by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in 1939 and which was founded to serve and sustain the Soviet state by lifting the morale of troops by glorifying the revolutionary ideal. In the past few decades, it has modernized its repertoire and performed on all continents, and in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi it performed a cover of Daft Punk's Get Lucky and released a cover of Pharrell Williams' Happy. It has received a "Star Platinum" on the avenue dedicated to great Russian artists.