Winter and Summer Courses
at De Expeditie, Amersfoort, The Netherlands
organized and lead by Irina Raspopova
Singing belongs to the way of life of the Russian people. Villagers sing together to ensure the well-being of the community and to support its members in difficult times. Singing is part of the Russians. He is nursed, marries and is burried with songs (Nikolai Gogol).
53 genres of song are recognized, many unknown in Western Europe: very long epic hero and holy songs, group laments (pritshitanija) at weddings, ritual song and dance, plays for holy days for the winter, spring and harvest.
With exception of the non traditional genres, which developed from the 18-20 centuries from Western European choral music, Russian songs are polyphonic. They are performed in small groups (3-8 personen). The complicated heterophonic or disharmonic polyrytmical “lengthened” (protjazhnyje) songs with 3 to 8 voices are most developped melodically. The tone ranges used for building up the melodies are mostly anhemonic. For instance, a tetrachord, based on an overset quarter can be compared with the pentatonic system.
The use of the voice in the Russian traditional song is very different from the Western European, but resembles other non Western European arts of song. As in Arabic and Turkish singing the melody is often adorned with so-called “melismas”. Many songs are sung in breast or other registers with a nasal voice. Singers try by imitating the cow’s voice to accomplish natural tone ranges.
Participants of Irina’s weekend course are taught original Russian polyphonic songs with voices in different registers, sometimes performd with dances. These songs have been collected by Irina Raspopova and Jovan Howe in villages all over Russia.
The programme contains multi media presentations on Friday and Saturday night. On Saturday night we have a free stage on which every participant gets the chance to perform. On Sunday at 15.00 hrs we have a free workshop for the participants after which Zarjanka will perform a number of songs and dances.
Application and terms and conditions
The next summercourse Old Russian peasant singing takes place at De Expeditie Amersfoort, from Friday February 27th till Sunday March 2nd 2015. De expedition (The expedition) is a living and working community, found on the idea of nonviolence. Smoking is not allowed in the building. The address:
3813 AE Amersfoort
Charge of the course amounts to € 190,-. For students or people receiving an alimony we reduce the costs to € 175,- (provide proof of enrollment or alimony). Besides the course, this amount will provide for vegetarian meals, coffee and thee, and two overnight stays in a one of many persons room. Please bring your own sheets or a sleeping bag, pillowcase and towel. Bringing snacks is appreciated.
You can apply to the course using our online application form below. After sending the filled in form, entry is complete after at least € 95,- is transfered to
Bank account: 1508.53.394
Name: Stichting Zarjanka te Doorwerth
Description: “Application summercourse De Expeditie”
from a foreign account: IBAN: NL32RABO0150853394 / BIC (SWIFT): RABONL32U)
The provided musical material (recordings, transcriptions, musical notations and arrangements of songs and instrumental music etc.), collected from 1977 in Russia and from 1993 in the Netherlands and Russia by I. Raspopova – specialist in authentic Russian folk culture – is her intellectual property and as such, falls under copyright. This material is outside the course, only with written permission for the public to be performed.
Comments on the course
I’ve known Irina for over 15 years and always participate in everything she organizes, whether a course, a concert or a Russian Travel. You always learn something new with her. Each course covers a different aspect of the Russian folk song, e.g. Cossacks, old-believers or people on the Volga. It’s always a fun happening, also for newcomers. The winter course of 2011, which mainly covered Russian gypsy songs was very good! Beautiful songs! We also learned to dance like gypsies. The amazing thing was that Irina not only taught us, in a weekend, to sing like gypsies, but also to improvise. Normally, only people with a richt experience in singing can lear this, but apparently Irina can teach it to anyone! We were shown a movie with real gypsies singing on a big screen, using a beamer, which really helped. Of course the masterful accompaniment on accordion by Grigoryi Bogomolnyi, who also has a lovely singing voice, didn’t hurt either. On Saturday night we enjoyed a cruise on the canals of Amersfoort and sang beautiful Russian songs all night. I highlt recommend this course to anyone who loves to sing, whether you have much or little to no singing experience!
Wim and Adri
We’ve been loyal members of the Irina’s and Grigoryi’s weekend course since 2007, whether the winter or summer course. For the first time in our lives, we began singing with Irina. Ever since we can’t stop singing, all thanks to the beautiful Russian polyphonic songs. Irina makes everyone feel they are able to learn singing and her passionate teaching style is very inspiring. Irina teaches everyone to be a soloist. She has many simple tricks to quickly reach the desired result. The Russian language is not easy. All songs have been translated and are displayed phonetically, so everyone can easily participate. Besides that Irina visually explains what the song is really about. Further support is provided in the form of videos or DVDs about e.g. all aspects of Russian (peasant) life, the singing of the Old Believers, etc, which are drawn from the Irina’s vast image archive. We learned how to control your voice, produce overtones and nasal singing. Everything is new to us and very interesting! The Amersfoort commodity is simple but good. Delicious vegetarian food and nice people. Traditionally, Saturday night has a very nice open forum where everyone can show their hidden talents, like singing, dancing, acting, music, poetry reading, story telling, etc. The motto is: Nothing is mandatory, anything goes! In short it is very nice! Come join us in an always unforgettable weekend!
I attended the course for the third time this year. I enjoyed a lot every time! The location “expedition” in Amersfoort is a nice spot to give courses. It is quiet, spacious, you can enjoy good food and sleep well. In short, a homey feel.
Irina’s technique with movements and sounds of nature brings the music to life and make the atmosphere relaxed. It is a weekend of singing, singing and more singing. Lovely! It is a special weekend for people who love to learn the real singing from the villages of Russia or nearby countries.
Course Russian folk singing in ‘Handel’ 28-30 January 2005
“We impovise multivocal.” By Wim Poels in the newspaper of Monday, January 31, 2005.
Nine music lovers participated in a Russian folk song course this weekend at the monastery ‘Weyst’, Handel. The Russian schooled singing teacher Irina Raspópova let the students begin in nature. A prolonged ‘Moeoeoe “filled the community room at The Weyst in Handel. Moments later, the nine participants produced the sound of a cat meowing. “Learning to sing properly starts in nature”, says singing teacher Irina Raspópova.The Russian peasants in remote places actually know the sound of their animals and get inspired by them. This approach works in every case, because the students always produce an impressive sound after this introducing. A very special kind of sound. The sounds are not produced from the throat, such as in western choirs, but from within the mouth. It results in many overtones, sometimes a shrill sound and remarkably loud for such a small amount of people. Participant Rob Landre from Helmond realizes that this type of singing attracts a particular kind of audience. Only a handful of spectators showed up at the final presentation of the students, who are dressed in original costumes. “It takes some getting used to. But many people who do, like it a lot!”, says Rob. Just like Landre, most participants joined one of the choirs of the Russian raised and educated Raspópova, who set them up in the middle of the Netherlands. “Remaining faithful to the original songs is one of its main mottos. Perhaps that the reason the choirs are appreciated by connoisseurs, but are largely unknown to the general public. We could once do a television performance, but the directors wanted us to do all sorts of weird dances to make it a spectacular show. We obviously didn’t do that.”, says Landre. Yet it was precisely such by Raspopova detested performing that got Landre hooked to Russian folk singing. Long ago he saw a performance of a Don Cossack Choir. When he heard of the activities of the presently in Wageningen living Raspópova nine years ago, he enlisted. I absolutely could not sing. She made me stand by the piano stand and asked me to start sining. It was nothing. With her natural way of working, she taught me singing, step by step. Her approach opens doors in Russia that remain closed for others. She shows the audience and participants a cutscene in which Russian villagers show a ritual, after long negotiation from Irina’s part. “That does not happen ofter”, says Landre. The residents are too afraid that large groups will run off with populair versions of it. Russian villages are small, close-knit communities where people are dependent upon each other. According to Landra, this is reflected in Russian choirs. “We learn the music by notes, but those are really unimportant. Western music contain mainly with triads, we sometimes improvise six vocal! Such an undertaking can only succeed if the singers listen very carefully to each other. Western schooled singers can rarely do that. We have had the most beautiful voices here, trained at the conservatory. But they were individualists. They don’t make it here and, without exception, leave after a few years.”