The Russian Patriarchate Choir of Moscow

On one of my rare excursions outside my room, I went and saw this choir perform at the Birmingham Symphony Hall back in 2010. It was just before Christmas and they sung by candlelight. No instruments, just a merry band of Russian monks singing.

It’s an unusual mix of high and low voices in vibrogasmic harmony. Mostly low voices to be fair. I’m no chorister so I don’t know what you call that. Bass? Baritone?? Toblerone???

Don’t be ridiculous.

Damn now I really want a Toblerone.

There’s often a doleful quality to their singing, yet I find listening to it conversely uplifting and soothing.

I had a front row seat which was still conspicuously available when great swathes of seats further back had been booked. I think acoustic snobbery renders the front row a no-go area for the concert-going nobility. Honestly though, I couldn’t see what the problem was with being on the front row – great view, great sound, plenty of leg room and no Afros or top hats to contend with in front.

Well, OK, so in my particular case I did end up kind of regretting my seating choice as I found myself trapped, spazzing out, on the wrong end of a thermonuclear Pure O OCD ass-whooping going on inside my head. It came on during the miserable traffic jam preceding the concert and I tried supremely hard to stow it away before I got there because I’d been looking forward to this concert for so long and it was the first time I’d done anything like this in a long time. If I succeeded at this, maybe I could go on to do more things like it.

Alas some days it just absolutely will not dance the way you need it to. Those days all your best tricks for getting you out of tricky corners just don’t seem to work for some reason. Your sword turns into a flower. Your gun plops pathetic chocolate bullets out before crumbling to pieces in your hands. Those days you had better stay indoors or else you absolutely pos-i-tively will get caught out in public with your pants down. And it aint pretty(no pun intended madam).

Those are the bad days, the days you end up crawling home on your belly, hoping nothing else happens; with a maelstrom raging inside your burned out head; nursing bleeding knotted rags where your intestines used to be. Those are the days you add “concerts” to the list of things a person like you can’t do any more. But that’s another story.

For reasons I’m not sure even I understand six years down the line, said Pure O attack resulted in me having a rather strange and unfortunate staring match with one of the monks in the choir. Just writing that sends shivers down my spine. I can still picture him, looking confused in Russian, innocently trying to sing his song, wondering what this seething mess in front of him wanted with him. I really badly wanted to telepathically explain to him that it wasn’t about whatever the Hell he thought it was, but (a) I don’t speak Russian and (b) I didn’t know I had OCD at the time so I dunno what I’d have even told him and (c) unless you just saw a hobbit moon-walking through blanc-mange, then I don’t possess any telepathic ability. (please do let me know if you did see that hobbit though and I’ll update my scores)

Anyway, in between kicking my own ass, freaking a monk out, and desperately trying not to betray what was going on inside my head with noise or gestures(which is tricky when it’s bad), I tried hard to enjoy the singing; which was just sublime by the way. And just as that was awkwardly appended as an after-thought there, that’s kind of how it works with whatever you originally set out to do, like enjoying a concert. You take whatever leftovers you can grab and make the most of them. It’s all you can do. But once the scales tip violently in the wrong direction enough times, you are forced to conclude that it’s simply not worth trying something like that again.

Always the boy scout***, I rudely recorded it on my MP3 player to listen back to afterwards. Experience had taught me to pre-empt concert-sullying street fights. So I got to listen to it again and again in relative peace. I can’t post it here though or I’ll have the monk copyright mafia on my ass and no-one needs that.

So here is the Russian Patriarchate Choir of Moscow, performing one of the songs they sung that night, but this time at Stone Henge:

*** Ironically I was never in the boy scouts. I tried it out, but the church hall where they held it smelled of poo. Or was it floor wax? Bah, what’s the difference – it offended my nose anyway. All the other boys attending smelled too, but not of floor wax, of poo.


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