Internet Site “Murmanski Vestnik” (The News of Murmansk). Russian Federation. 20.07.2013

Author: Tatiana Britskaia


Because of a huge size of the present article, we decided to upload to the Web site the translation of only important parts from it, – The Ensemble “Rustavi” Administration.

This time, we got a chance to listen to the legendary academic Ensemble “Rustavi” “live” in a small town Forde, situated in the western part of Norway, where the vocal group arrived at the music festival.


The incredibly talented

Legendary Anzor Erkomaishvili, the founder and permanent artistic director of the “Rustavi” (the ensemble is already 45 years old), assures us that he isn’t strict in relation to his pupils at all.

  • I’m not strict at all, but they are modest. I can hardly blink my eyes as they obey in a second. We choose the singers not only according to voice, but according to temper as well. Each of them is distinguished for their peculiar, special voice and character and we can say each of them occupies their outstanding place in the ensemble. This is like a family, and they are like, – children. And these children I have incredibly talented!

There is a very big competition in the group. If, as a result of any reason, there appears a vacancy there, the conservative boys stand in line. Though, there is very little conservatism there.

  • It gives nothing in the folk music, – asserts Mr. Erkomaishvili. – The most significant and important has to be received in a family. In the “Rustavi” there are presented the singers from all parts of Georgia and each of them brings special temper and chic their regions are characterized with to the ensemble. In Georgia the polyphony, harmony in different parts of our country – are completely different from one another. And each soloist performs the songs from their region, as all this is in blood!

There are as many songs as the singers

Mr. Erkomaishvili’s dynasty sings for 300 years already. Personally Mr. Anzor Erkomaishvili, – is a representative of the seventh generation of the singers. And not merely of the singers, but also of the people, who carefully collected and kept unique songs during the centuries.

  • I remember my great grandfather, who passed away when he was 107 years old. He taught me, – tells us Mr. Erkomaishvili. – I was 7 years old when he was dying. It was 3 a. m. My granny and I were sitting next to him. He wasn’t moving. And suddenly he began to talk, like he was as fit as a fiddle, with expressing gestures. Through calling he was inviting singers – the members of his ensemble. Of the very ensemble, that first recorded 50 Georgian songs on gramophone records in Tbilisi in 1907. The songs were recorded by the firm in London “Gramophone”, then they sold the gramophone records and English gramophones in Georgia. For the recordings, they expressed their sincere thanks to my great grandfather through presenting him a very special gramophone, that is still kept at my home. And when all the singers arrived, he was greeting each of them, and then was singing with them. And he didn’t manage to finish only the last song. And my granny understood that that was the end.
  • Georgia, like in the past, is still distinguished for its singing traditions – there is complete unison about that in “Rustavi”. The families of the members of the group can be proud of their illustrious vocal history. The fact that the heritage of our predecessors isn’t lost, mostly is the merit of the ensemble by itself, that has recorded more than 750 songs to gramophone records and CDs. Many of them are restored and revived actually from nothing.
  • We restore and study old songs, which are about one hundred years old, – explains Mr. Erkomaishvili. – I travelled through all the countries where such recordings are kept until today. I found such recordings at Krasnogorsky Central Archives of Sound Recording, that nowadays is moved to Moscow; in Leningrad, in Riga. More than five hundred pieces I found at the archives of London; at the archives of Paris there are maintained not only folk songs, but also the sound recordings of Georgian opera singers of that time. Mostly, all these are the originals, the first copies of the recordings, from them they were making then the ones for circulation. In Moscow, I used to find even copper plates, which were successfully restored.

The songs performed by the “Rustavi” sounds authentically. The maestro states that in fact during the last one hundred years, they didn’t change as the language. Though, the Georgian melodies are distinguished for their improvisation, and each performance, to some degree, is unique.

  • When I asked my grandfather how many variants did my lovely song have, he answered: “There are as many variants as good singers”, – laughs Anzor Erkomaishvili. – What can I tell you, – one and the same soloist will never sing identically twice.

Rehearsals in “Rustavi” – the vocalists and the dancers (in total the ensemble – this is about 70 people) – are every day. The group of the singers practice three hours every morning. Frankly speaking, I assumed that in the mornings the vocal chords “sleep”, but the secret here is in the fact that the rehearsals are held in a low voice. And only after the song is properly elaborated, the master lets them “raise the voice”.

Especially interesting is the fact that the Georgian polyphony is sung not only in its motherland: Several years ago Anzor Erkomaishvili taught this art even to American and Japanese singing groups. As Mr. Erkomaishvili tells us, they sang well, but “not so as the Georgians.”

  • You will never be able to teach that, – you must be born with this, – asserts Mr. Erkomaishvili.

The head of the ensemble shares with us: last spring, after a tragic death of one of our soloists, we were forced to invite two singers at a time as the singer who died in the accident had a very special voice that enabled him to perform the songs of different parts of the country.

  • They sing in an absolutely different way in the western and the eastern parts of Georgia! In the east of Georgia the songs are monodic, with prolonged bass, but in the west of Georgia, there is developed polyphony, – explains Anzor Erkomaishvili. – Do you know that Stravinsky called the Georgian polyphony the best among the songs that he ever listened to. And he wrote, that it gives you much more than all the achievements of the modern music. And the musicologists of the world arrived at a conclusion that we haven’t borrowed the polyphonic song from Europe, as they previously asserted, but vice versa, – it is the oldest in Georgia! In 2001 Georgian polyphony was proclaimed a masterpiece of the intangible culture of the world by UNESCO. Twenty years earlier to that date, the Americans sent the record of our songs into space with the music of Beethoven, Mozart, Bach.

Georgia – is a special civilization, assures us Mr. Erkomaishvili, and, while speaking with him, you are being convinced in that with great pleasure. Since the very arrival of the “Rustavi” soloists, singing at the hotel hasn’t stopped. At first, you could hear tunes, that were followed by their appearance – handsome, dressed up in capes with daggers in their belts of course.

What can I tell you, they sang even in the swimming-pool, where the participants of the festival had a rest between the concerts. When “heavily suntanned” guys from Senegal who were nearby in the water caught the melody, they tried to imitate the rhythm through striking their palms on the water. That was a complete international harmony. Though, the vocalists ceased singing from time to time in order to demonstrate some jumping into the water for the arrived company of women… And, of course, put down the applauses. In a word, they are – the Georgians.

Though, this is not the first time that “Rustavi” arrives at “Forde Festival”, it still manages to amaze the audience gathered from all over the world. The first concert was held in a local Kirche (Lutheran church) at midnight. Beyond the wooden walls, the torrent of heavy rain flooded the town, but in the shadow of the altar they sang quietly and sweetly.

For instance, the Georgian chants differ from the music of other Orthodox Churches of the world. And there is the Erkomaishvilis’ great merit in the maintenance of them. Mr. Erkomaishvili’s grandfather was the best master of Georgian chants. He knew more than two thousand works by heart. He didn’t reveal all this in the period of fighting against Christianity. But in the sixties, before passing away, he decided to record them. Though, there was already no one to sing the Georgian chant polyphony with: Erkomaishvili – the senior, by that time was the only master who had appropriate knowledge. And in spite of that, he managed to transfer to the film of a tape-recorder a bit of the church hymns, that he kept in his mind.

  • At first he sang the first part. Then he played the recording and in pair with himself made the second part. Then the third. This way he managed to record 108 church hymns, – says Anzor Erkomaishvili.

The second Norwegian concert held at dawn, in the town washed out from the heavy rain. They were waiting for the audience in open-air, on the roof of a local art gallery, though they turned the concert performance to breakfast, when they seated the artists and the guests side by side at the tables. Wine was poured into glasses, flowers were blooming in scarlet, they were treated with fresh vegetables and hot pies. And you could hear standing toasts. Oh, how well said them a tenor Merab Samkurashvili, handsome and smart! After that – they sang. Suitably, with pleasure – so that it really seemed the part of the civilization, the name of which is Georgia, as the Georgians call their motherland, reigned here, in the extreme north of Europe.

Close your eyes – and you will see  

Anzor Erkomaishvili remembers how he brought “Rustavi” over here twenty years ago. A hearty welcome, brilliant society – they have a strong willing to arrive again. And they are ready to return even this fall, – even with the whole group, or with the vocalists. The “Rustavi” seldom performs with microphones – the head calls them “chemistry” with antipathy, he prefers live voice.

  • These days we are leaving for China, then we are going to Switzerland, – says Goderdzi Janelidze. – Last year we had a concert in Moscow – in “Crocus City Hall”, and in St. Petersburg – in “Oktiabrski”.

Goderdzi has a rare voice. You could hear his velvet, mild bass in Tbilisi Opera House before. Mr. Erkomaishvili explains: the repertoire of the ensemble is always formed around the soloists:

  • All the vocalists that we have are distinguished for their talent, but sometimes the world gives us light as a gift, there appears a star! The “Rustavi” ’s star until the eighties was Hamlet Gonashvili, the best singer of all times of Georgia. They said about his singing: close your eyes, and you will see all the colors of the world.

The stars, the sky, the sea – all this is easily felt in their wonderful songs. So it is absolutely unnecessary to define about what are the songs.

  • About love, – gives us a gentle hint Goderdzi. – But there are also “work songs”, that are performed e.g. during grape picking…

Their music, as the singers by themselves, emits such sunny charm, such love to the life, that can heal any grief and sorrow. For instance, I can tell you about medicines that in the repertoire of the “Rustavi” there is something special – healing songs. They have been performed since old times by dads to their sick children.

  • I remember, I would be about 4 years old when I fell badly ill. I was running so high temperature that I was raving, – at the end tells us Anzor Erkomaishvili. – I remember how my granny put me to bed in the room that she completely filled with red flowers. She lit candles. Then arrived my dad, grandfather and my great grandfather and began to sing a healing song with chonguri (Georgian national string instrument). They sang so sweetly! I fell asleep. I dreamed I was standing on a hill, there were lambs around me. I saw how an old man dressed in a white tunic landed near me from the sky – I recognized my grandfather. He slowly drove away with his stick the lambs that frightened me. After that, I woke up completely recovered.

Until you hear the “Rustavi” ’s songs, you can easily forget any grief and sorrow.