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33rd Grushinsky Festival
July 13, 2006 14:38

The Volga River, oaks, hills, tents, and people all around And music.

It is hardly possible to give an overall unbiased picture of the annual Grushinsky festival of bard songs as usual held in Samara region this year: at least because it is impossible to observe at once seven concert stages that from afternoon till late night hosted singers of all categories and levels, and to all tastes. The public was no less various: from elderly tourists to teenage punks. It seemed people were everywhere. Yet this year, as reported, the visitors were much fewer than had been expected: just around 80 thousand people.

The large-scale Grushinsky bard song festival held every summer in Samara region since 1968 has rather a long-lasting tradition already. Many of the notable songwriters once sang here and took part in the festival contest. Beginning authors have an opportunity to perform here on a par with celebrities, and music fans have a rare chance to communicate freely with their favourite singers, as they all live in tents side by side. The atmosphere is truly informal and friendly. What is also special about the festival is that there is no definite concert program, so surprises can occur every moment.

When you find yourself at the huge legendary Grushinskaya glade it is like entering an enormous realm of its own. The first of the five days of the festival we spent trying to accommodate ourselves to this reality. (After all we could find here everything we needed, even the Internet for free!) Along with the picturesque scenery of the Volga river and its numerous confluents and green hills with blossoming flowers and pines and oaks, we were surprised by a huge market where you can buy almost everything but for strong drinks, for example. However it did not make life less merry: the folks drank the spirits they had brought with themselves or tanked up with beer available in plenty here. Da-da-da! (Yes-yes-yes!), - tipsy dancing guys yelled here and there imitating a currently popular commercial.

Unfortunately commerce is intruding upon this unmercenary festival, too. When the club of bard songs initiated the festival in 1968 it could not even smack any commerce: it was a different country and a different festival. The festival remains non-commercial today also: the singers perform for free and the concerts are open to all comers. Now the festival is at risk. Some commercial company buys the tenancy right for the unique Grushinskaya Glade for many years known as the venue of the largest bard festival in the country. What will become of the place is not known yet; the owners plan to build a big tourist complex here.

It is not for the first time that the festival faces danger: from 1980 to 1986 the Soviet authorities prohibited the festival under pretence of its harmful influence on the minds of the growing generation. Now the situation is different, but Now the festival is closed, then it is sold. For crying out loud! The president of the club of authors songs Boris Keilman expressed his indignation. All these years the Grushin Club and the community have put money into this place. The fact was to be taken into account when the tender was held, - says chairperson of the steering committee Tatyana Cherepanova.

At present the committee is going to request the President of Russia to help save the Grushinskaya Glade. Signatures under the letter to Putin are being collected now.

Will the festival survive?

There are lots of examples of closing of such cultural projects that failed to withstand the merciless overall commercialization. To name but a few such places in Moscow, they are Museum of Cinema, Club Forpost, Viktor Luferovs Theatre of Song Perekrestok, etc.

In spite of everything Grusha, how the festival is shortly called, still sings, and sometimes very beautifully. I personally was very impressed by Elena Frolova, who performs songs based on poems by the Silver Age poets, as well as old Russian spiritual verses. Her enchanting singing to a guitar or a gusli (old Russian music instrument) envelops you into a cloud of light and joy that remains with you afterwards. Unforgettable sensations are created by shamanic girls of the band Ptitsa Tyloburdo playing some strange folk instruments and singing with voices of heavenly birds. Moscow pop-rock bands Stantsia Mir and Bashnya Rowan entertained the public with their inflammatory music and ingenious lyrics. Sensitive listeners could not overlook the subtle poetry and powerful beauty of Grigory Danskoys songs.

The most spectacular event of the festival is traditionally the concert on a Floating Guitar, a stage shaped like a guitar located on the surface of a lake. It is considered that the Guitar presents the most outstanding performances: laureates of the festival and celebrities of the bard song genre sing on this stage for the listeners sitting on the hill over the lake.

Let us hope the Guitar, the symbol of bard song and Grushinsky festival will remain here and bring the lovers of non-commercial music here again next year.

Vera Ivanova and Mikhail Manykin, 10 July 2006


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