Singing in Siberia: A Concert in Irkutsk, Russia (VIDEO)

Singing in Siberia: A Concert in Irkutsk, Russia (VIDEO)

Helen Holter traveled the Trans-Siberian Railway aboard the Golden Eagle luxury train from Ulan Ude in Siberia to Moscow, Russia. She and her fellow travelers experienced a private concert in Irkutsk, where such musical traditions have lived on for nearly 200 years.

Before I traveled to Siberia, I never considered it as anything other than a sad, dark and chilly place given its history of punishment, exile, and labor camps. Yet, my perceptions about Siberia were shattered along my train journey, as I experienced a classical concert on a sunny, hot summer Siberian day in Irkutsk, the “Paris of Siberia,” as Anton Chekhov called it.

Exiled in IrkutskOur venue was the Decembrist House Museum where the Volkonsky family lived in the 1800s, exiled to Irkutsk after the failed 1825 Decembrist revolt.  Just as Maria Volkonsky followed her husband into exile, other exiled intellectuals and nobility also brought their devoted spouses and families to Irkutsk, bringing as well their love for culture, arts, and music. The Decembrist House Museum showcases that time in history.

Inside Maria Volkonsky’s original parlor with its rich burgundy-flocked wallpaper, white-trimmed doors, and crystal chandeliers, our featured soloists performed songs in Russian, focusing on love – of course! (After all, Maria herself was the subject of poems by Pushkin.) These singers easily transported us back to a time when such classical concerts resounded from these walls, nearly 200 years ago.

Thriving in ExileThe Volkonsky family’s musical instruments include a rare 1831 Lichtenthal grand piano as well as a 19th century pyramidal piano, believed to be the only functional one in the world. Since Maria and other wives and families of exiled intellectuals and nobles weren’t allowed to socialize in town, they instead held concerts, poetry readings and even dances inside their own homes. Now, as then, the Volkonsky house remains a popular destination and a testimonial to the ability of humans to thrive in exile, through culture, arts, and music.

Lichtenthal grand pianos are known for their rare woods and inlaid intricate designs <br>Photo credit: Helen Holter

Lichtenthal grand pianos are known for their rare woods and inlaid intricate designs
Photo credit: Helen Holter

It's believed this is the world's only working 19th century pyramidal piano <br>Photo credit: Helen Holter

It’s believed this is the world’s only working 19th century pyramidal piano
Photo credit: Helen Holter

Travel to Irkutsk with MIR MIR offers several group tours as well as hand-crafted, custom private journeys to Siberia. Some MIR tours that stop in Irkutsk include:

MIR has nearly 30 years of unmatched travel expertise to Russia, with on-the-ground support through its Siberian affiliate offices in Irkutsk and Ulan Ude. Its full service, dedication, and unwavering commitment to quality has twice earned MIR a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of  “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.

Contact a MIR destination expert today to explore how you can discover the delights of Irkutsk, Siberia, Russia and beyond.

(Top photo: The master of ceremonies and Russian interpreter introduce songs at the Decembrist House Museum private concert in Irkutsk, Siberia. Photo credit: Helen Holter)

PUBLISHED: August 3, 2015

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