Oakwood University Aeolians Choir Featured at Russian Festival
First Adventist group to perform at Moscow International Christmas event (Posted Mar. 8, 2012)
BY TIM ALLSTON, director of public relations, Oakwood University, reporting from Moscow
Oakwood University’s Aeolians Choir served as the only U.S. performers and the first-ever Seventh-day Adventist group to perform at the seven-day, Second Moscow International Christmas Festival of Sacred Music. (The Russian Orthodox Church’s calendar places Christmas in January, which is when the Oakwood visit took place.)
“In April our music department ?secretary said I had a message from Moscow,” said Jason Max Ferdinand, Aeolian’s director and a former Aeolian. At first “kind of skeptical,” he called and confirmed its legitimacy: an all-expense-paid trip for the group as a festival headliner. Eugene Chernikov, a festival staff member, said the group was “the most disciplined and diverse choir I’d observed.”
Through the efforts of Michel Kaminsky, a leader of the Moscow Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the nearby Adventist seminary supplied eight student guides/translators to assist the Oakwood delegation in their trip. The conference also brought together three local congregations for a Sabbath, January 21, 2012, worship service featuring Leslie Pollard, Oakwood’s president, and the Aeolians in a sermon/mini?concert format.
That evening’s concert featured a sold-out audience in the all-glass, seven-story Moscow International House of Music’s acoustically perfect concert hall, showcasing massive floor-to-ceiling-high organ pipes.
Thunderous applause and cheers punctuated this festival finale concert, but more notably following an impromptu program change: Ferdinand was leading the choristers in a rendition of “Amazing Grace,” then turned to the audience, inviting them to sing in Russian the words to the familiar tune; he then stilled the Aeolians and directed the mostly Russian audience! Later Zsofia Budai, U.S. embassy deputy press attaché remarked, “As we were singing ‘Amazing Grace,’ I saw a few ushers crying.”
The choir finished its 110-minute musical ministry in this concert hall-turned-cathedral with “The Holy City,” which was followed by a three-minute standing ovation. n
—a two-minute video vignette, “Aeolians in Russia,” is online at www.oakwood.edu.