Russian celebration held in Sitka

Posted: Thursday, August 19, 2010

White Nights, an annual celebration of Russian culture, takes place in Sitka this weekend in conjunction with the 2010 International Conference on Russian America. The conference, sponsored by the Sitka National Historical Park, will host scholars from around the world, and runs from Aug 19 through 21. White Nights, a music festival, will be held Friday night.

Courtesy Of Alexander Dolitsky
Courtesy Of Alexander Dolitsky

White Nights has been held in Juneau for the past two years. It is sponsored by the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington, D.C. and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and organized in Juneau by Alexander Dolitsky, president of the Alaska-Siberia Research Center.

"This (event) symbolizes Russian people's interests in cooperating with the United States in areas of science, culture and business; and an attempt to preserve Russian heritage in Alaska," Dolitsky said in a statement. "It also symbolizes Russian people's pride and historic ties to the Russian period of Alaska's history."

The festival will be introduced by Dolitsky, as well as Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams, Alaska State Senator Bert Stedman and Russian Deputy Consul General Nikolai Vinogradov.

Last year's program spanned two days of performances, but this year the acts have been condensed to fit within one evening. Musical entertainment includes performances by the New Archangel Dancers and the Sitniks, both of Sitka, as well as out-of-town guest vocalists Leonid Grinberg and Sergey Zadvorny and pianists Svetlana Velichko and Tatiana Scott.

Jeanne Stolberg, founding member of the Sitniks, said the performances cover a wide range of styles.

"We have a mixture of classic and folk, Russian music and Russian dance," she said.

The Sitniks, formed in 2006, play Russian folk music on traditional instruments such as the balalaika and domra.

"Most of our repertoire consists of old folk music, and we also play some eastern European songs as well," Stolberg said.

Classic works from composers such as Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov are also on the program.

Here's a look at the peformers:

SVETLANA VELICHKO and MICAH McKINNIS: Pianist Velichko, who taught at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory for 29 years, has made her home in Anchorage since 1990, and has been teaching at the University of Alaska for 15 years. McKinnis, 17, is one of her students. The duo will perform classic works from composers such as Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky.

LEONID GRINBERG: Vocalist Grinberg moved to the U.S. 6 years ago and now lives in Anchorage, where he plays with the band Soul Crackers.

SERGEY ZADVORNY and TATIANA SCOTT: Vocalist Zadvorny, from Sacramento, has performed vocal solos at some of the world's leading opera houses, including in Milan, Paris and New York. Pianist Tatiana Scott moved to the U.S. from Moscow in 1991, and now teaches and performs in Sacramento. The pair will perform works by Mussorgsky and Rachmaninov, among other composers.

NEW ARCHANGEL DANCERS: Sitka-based performers will be Cindy Baldwin-Kitka, Debbie Boardman, Kelly Boddy, Cyndy Gibson, Barbara Kendall, Martha Pearson, Linda Speerstra, Susan Suarez and Stacey Woolsey.

SITNIKS: From Sitka, performers will be Kris Fulton, prima domra; John Fulton, concertina; Mike Litman, accordion; Ritch Phillips, bass; Pattie Skannes, alto balalaika; Jeanne Stolberg, prima balalaika.

White Nights is free, but donations are gladly accepted.

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