Surfing meets Fiddler on the Roof

Posted: October 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

Last night I went to a concert in the Lenin Memorial Concert Hall in the center of the city. The other day, I was in the technology center office and was given tickets to last night’s event as well as for another performance on the next day. All I really knew about the event was that there was going to be a violin player. Naïve me thought that implied classical music. What I got was a cross between The Ventures and Fiddler on the Roof. Seriously, though. The majority of the pieces had a distinct surf rock feel to them. I think the drummer was doing his best Mel Taylor (the drummer of the Ventures) impression with hints of Gene Krupa and Joe Morello (probably the best drummer of the Dave Brubeck Quartet). The bassist kept things anchored with solid riffs and the guitarist mostly strummed a series of power-chords. On top of that, the violinist would break out into moments of pure virtuosity. Eat your heart out baroque period soloists, this guy would dominate you all.

The two most popular numbers of the night could not have been more different. The first was a gypsy-jazz rendition of the Russian folk classic Очи Чёрные (Dark Eyes). It was a lively version that had the feel of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli. Django Reinhardt’s rendition of Очи Чёрные, or Les Yeux Noirs, is one of my favorites.

The second “show stopper” of the night was the piece played after intermission. One by one, various members of the quartet appeared on stage. The drummer kicked it off with his best Gene Krupa impersonation. Then the bassist walked on and started to play a fairly familiar bass riff. He was quickly joined by the guitarist. Calmly and cooly, the violinist walked on stage and proceeded to being to do his best Michael Jackson impersonations before taking over the melody of Billie Jean.

MJ is still loved in Russia, apparently.

The other important thing to note about the concert is that it was the opening night of the 1st Annual World Jewish Cultural Festival in Ulyanovsk. Before the show began, four speeches were made by the governor of the Ulyanovsk Oblast as well as three gentlemen who work on Russian-Jewish and Russian-Israeli relations. The violinist told us at one point that he was from Moldova and that he had moved to Israel about 18 years ago.

Today I went for round two of the Jewish cultural festival with four guys from my floor. I thought we were going to see a play; instead, we saw what amounted to a Jewish talent show. Various singers and dancers took to the stage to perform numbers. In between acts, the emcee told jokes. It was an interesting a fun night, but it wasn’t as good as the previous night’s concert. I guess one highlight of the night was that the singers sang songs in Hebrew, German, and Russian. It was somewhat funny when they were singing in German because I don’t think Russian audiences appreciate having commands shouted at them in German even though the singers were merely asking the audience to sing along or join in together. One thing that was very cringe-worthy of the event was that none of the music was live. Primarily the songs were midi generated pieces and the music producers seem to have chosen the bargain music composition software.

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