How the creative associations of St Petersburg University work during the pandemic

14.04.2020

The University has more than 15 on-stage performance groups: a theatre, choirs, ensembles, dance studios, and orchestras. The heads of the associations have told us how University students continue to improve their skills during lockdown.

Maksim Sadovnikov, the director of St Petersburg University Studio Theatre:

‘The first admission to the theatre studio was only two years ago. Several months were spent on acquiring the fundamentals of acting, elocution, callisthenics in performances, and vocal. Then we went on to practice – we started staging the musical ‘Crocodile’. It was presented to us by Igor Bogdanovich, an outstanding St Petersburg composer. At the end of the last season, we showed its first part in the Palace of Culture in Peterhof. The first night was scheduled for this May. But our plans have been derailed by the pandemic.

We have been upset, but do not feel like giving up. The students have decided to continue the theatre classes online. We had the idea to recite together Alexander Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin. The students were interested in digging into the enigmas of Pushkin’s multi-layered poems, and I was very curious how contemporary students understand Pushkin.

What we get in the recording is technically imperfect. There are times when someone goes in and out due to the poor Internet connection. But this is not an issue. It brings a great happiness in these serious times that we can unite in our favourite hobby, even on the Internet, even if we are many kilometres from each other. We have already recorded three chapters and intend to finish the whole poem before we can see each other in our rehearsal room.’

Edward Krotman, the artistic director of St Petersburg University choir:

‘Teleworking is underway, although this is not easy. Some students have left for their home towns and cities. They, like residents of St Petersburg, receive assignments on the Internet. We are planning to start group rehearsals online a little later. The choristers are currently engaged in self-study of music pieces, they delve into their choral part and listen to the recordings of masters. Usually, students do not have enough time for an in-depth study of the material and an in-depth penetration into the author’s plan. They will probably be able to pay more attention to this now.

However, the very definition of choral art involves joint music playing, and to organise this efficiently, alas, is now impossible. But forms of individual work are useful, and I hope that when the choir gets together again for rehearsals, we will be ready for them. And most importantly, we will be more motivated to do our thing.’

Edward Krotman, the artistic director of St Petersburg University choir

Ekaterina Golovkina, the artistic director of St Petersburg University folk music group:

‘In the ensemble, even during lockdown, you will not get bored. First, an extensive list of songs from the Arkhangelsk and Bryansk regions has been prepared for self-study. Secondly, each participant has songs from the current repertoire, which they do not know perfectly. So, there is an opportunity to improve this situation. Thirdly, we are carefully preparing for future trips: we are developing routes, collecting ethnographical data, and much more. We hope that these trips will come true. On 20, 25 and 27 March, we were supposed to perform at the University and at the Pushkin House (the Institute of Russian Literature). These concerts will surely happen, but later. So, we must keep in shape. Moreover, the group began preparations for a big concert, which we plan to hold in the autumn of 2020.’

Aleksandr Kiskachi, the artistic director of the ensemble of early music Musica universalis, the recorder ensemble Harmoniam quaerentes of St Petersburg University:

‘Unfortunately, the ensemble members cannot currently meet and rehearse. We have changed our routine. The students are receiving sheet music of new pieces by email. Then each one is studying them by themselves, recording them, sending an audio recording to the team leader, and receiving feedback. The ensemble members are videoconferencing with each other and their head. They are reading articles and books on the topic. It also helps to correctly and expressively disassemble musical material. Teleworking makes you pay attention to the slightest details of the music performed. It will certainly be of benefit in the future.’

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