Moscow: Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday he will aim to quickly restore the country’s signature Red Army Choir, which lost most of its singers in the weekend’s military plane crash. Sixty-four members, including the conductor Valery Khalilov and most singers of the Alexandrov Ensemble, also known as the Red Army Choir internationally, died when their Syria-bound plane went down in the Black Sea near the resort city of Sochi.
Shoigu said that he will do what is necessary “so that we can restore the troupe in the nearest future, as much as we could, hold auditions, pick the best people, so that they continue the traditions that the Alexandrov Ensemble is known for.”
To entice the best musical talent to join the army’s official choir, Shoigu said he will soon order the allocation of 70 flats to the ensemble, which would be offered to new members. He added that a military music school will be named after conductor Khalilov, calling him a “legend” who revived the army’s orchestral traditions.
At a defence ministry meeting, Shoigu held a minute of silence in memory of the victims, who were en route to Russia’s military base in Syria to entertain troops during New Year’s celebrations. The Alexandrov Ensemble has about 200 singers, dancers and musicians, most of whom are civilian musical professionals who also work in other choirs, ensembles and musical theatres.
A Soviet symbol, it was first established in 1928 and was one of the rare groups that performed abroad during the Cold War. It has toured often and regularly worked with foreign musicians while also serving its propaganda purpose, with one of its recent hits “Polite People” glorifying the special forces officers who oversaw the annexation of Crimea.
Its repertoire was once primarily Russian folk songs and famous wartime tunes, though in recent years the programme has included covers of the Beatles and Adele, in line with the overall modernisation of the military’s image.