A new Russian cultural festival will take center stage in Northeast Philadelphia this fall, but it’s not just for Russians. Nor is it restricted to Russian-language speakers.
Organizers encourage people from all nationalities and cultural backgrounds to experience the musical, dramatic, literary and even athletic ethnic-oriented activities to be offered in the coming weeks.
“We are trying to preserve our heritage. And how do we define our heritage? It’s our culture: our music, our dance, our literature, what immigrants from the former Soviet Union brought here,” said Mikhail Zorich, producer of the Russian Mosaica Cultural Festival. “It’s what we try to preserve and pass on to the next generation.”
Zorich and his group have developed partnerships with other community organizations to promote an eclectic array of concerts and stage productions in multiple local venues. The centerpiece will be a “Keeping Traditions” concert series at Glen Foerd on the Delaware, where rofessional classical, folk and contemporary artists will perform in the 18th-century mansion’s intimate second-floor art gallery.
Four monthly installments will begin on Thursday, Sept. 18, with “Singing Around the Globe” featuring Kira Shcherbakova, a Kiev, Ukraine, native who attended high school locally and whom Zorich describes as a “young, rising star.” She specializes in contemporary religious-theme music with both Christian and Jewish influences. She sings in six languages including English, Russian, French and Italian. Sibling child performers Anastasia Markel, 12, and her brother Alexander, 10, also will showcase their singing and dancing. The Russian natives and Chester County residents are trained in vocals and ballet, specializing in traditional folk music, Zorich said.
The Sept. 18 show will coincide with the xCultural Passport to PHL Week, an event created by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs to celebrate Philadelphia’s immigrant heritage and cultural diversity. The Sept. 18 concert will start at 8 p.m., as will three additional events in the Glen Foerd series. The venue is at 5001 Grant Ave. General admission costs $20 ($15 for students).
The concert series will resume on Oct. 30 with “Cello Unleashed” featuring fourth-generation musician and instructor Steve Kramer, along with his students. Kramer is of Ukraine heritage and his grandfather trained at the prestigious Kiev Conservatory, according to Zorich. Kramer was born in Denmark and has become internationally acclaimed for his interpretation of Russian classical compositions.
On Nov. 20, pianist Regina Shenderovich will continue the classical theme with a solo recital. Shenderovich is a Russian-American who received her early training at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia. She holds a Bachelor of Music from Boston Conservatory and Master of Music from the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins. She earned her doctorate from the University of Illinois and is a faculty member at Settlement Music School. In 2006, she performed for the short subject documentary film Two Hands: The Leon Fleisher Story, which was nominated for an Oscar.
As an encore on Dec. 18, Trio PhilaGrande will bring their unique piano act to Glen Foerd, featuring Olga and Dmitry Borisovsky, along with Tatyana Mykhaylova. The three musicians play a single piano simultaneously in a six-hands format, offering a compelling interpretation of works by Bach, Schubert, Tchaikovsky and others.
“At these four events, my intention and goal is to build an audience so people can expect a proper level of performance,” said Zorich, who co-organized the single-day Russian Mosaica Festival at Penn’s Landing for eight years before changing formats and launching the season-long festival two years ago.
As part of the new festival, Zorich’s organization is co-promoting other cultural events, particularly the community theater production of Anton Chekhov’s The Bear on Sept. 14. The Encore company will produce the play at House of Arts, 7938 Bustleton Ave. The dialogue will be spoken in Russian. According to Zorich, Encore is 23 years old and began by staging productions with Russian-Jewish heritage themes. Now, the company has diversified into Russian classics. Showtime is 4 p.m. Admission costs $15.
For folks more into athletic spectacles, the local Russian-speaking community is also planning on fielding a squad in the Philadelphia Plays for Peace soccer tournament at Edgely Fields in Fairmount Park on Sept. 21. The event runs from 1 to 6 p.m. Admission is free. According to Zorich, the local Russian-speaking community has strong ties to the golden era of Ukrainian soccer in the post-World War II years when Dynamo Kiev was one of the top professional clubs in Europe. The legacy of that team is a strong source of pride among Ukrainians, despite the harsh Cold War environment.
The same holds true for all Russian-speaking people of their many cultural contributions.
“Even though people left [their homelands] because they had big problems, they had many good things that happened to them on a cultural level,” Zorich said. “These are things we want the young people to know. There were so many talented people who came over and who are now teaching.”
For information about the programs, visit the “Russian Mosaica Heritage Festival” page on Facebook or call 609-230-9804. ••