Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Magical Mystery Tour

Danny; Moscow, 6/9/13
This afternoon we played our final concert at the Preodoleniye rehabilitation center for spinal cord injury, the name means overcoming.
This is the first and only spinal cord injury recovery center in Russia of this type. The patients spend anywhere from 1-2 months here after an accident, recovering from a range if spinal injuries. Most of the patients that are here will never walk again and the center specializes in overcoming a range of debilitating injuries. They have acupuncture, massage, magnetics therapy and a solarium that is a green space for healing.

The patients gathered in the main hallway where we set up to play an intimate concert.

Off all the concerts we played in Russia, this was one if the most rewarding and emotional. These patients experience a range of emotion and often experience deep
depression after their injuries. Art and music provide positive energy
and healing vibes to all
including ourselves. It's such a joy to see the smiles on the patients faces an get them involved in the music.

After the concert the director presented us with a few gifts and a certificate of appreciation for playing at the center.

We were able to spend some of the with the patients signing autographs and posters.

It's hard to believe we are done with this tour, we have so many people to thank. I hope to do a wrap up of the tour on the way home and thank everyone for their support. Here is a pic of us with our fearless leader Masha after today's final concert. She is the Cultural Affairs Coordinator with US Embassy in Moscow and acts as road manager, tour organizer, booker, translator and keeps us safe. We could have not survived with out her cool head, calm reason and sarcastic sense of humor.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Dr Zhivago

Danny; Tomsk Siberia, 6/7/13
I'm writing this from backstage at our outdoor concert on the banks of the Tom river in Tomsk Siberia.

The first photo is from the movie Dr Zhivago which was filmed partially on the Trans Siberian line. Set just before and in the years following the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the film follows the life of Zhivago as he marries, raises a family, has his life totally disrupted by first World War One, and then by the Revolution.
This was my Mothers favorite film and the image most American people had of Russia and Siberia, including me.
A lot of you know that I lost my mother in a car crash this past Christmas. It's hard for me not to think of her during this tour knowing how exited she was for me to come here to Russia. Every time Dr. Zhivago was on, she would watch the film and I would wonder what was it's appeal.
Some years ago I sat down and watched this epic film that was adapted from the novel by the Russian born Moscovite Boris Pasternak. I was amazed at the drama and struggle of the characters in the story. Love, loss, struggle romance, war, it had all the strife of the human condition. This was my impression of what Russia must be like especially Siberia and I always thought it would be a very exotic place in which to travel.
There are many preconceptions about Siberia and many people think it is just a desolate region for outcasts. It's a vast and varied ecosystem and that makes up most north Northeast Asia.
This 3,000,000 square mile territory is some of the most beautiful and fertile land on earth. You can read more about it here;
In the 16th century the Siberian Huns controlled Tomsk whom had taken it from the Tatars. Before that, this area was habited by indigenous tribes.
Russian explorers came to this region to make maps and see what was beyond the abyss. The Huns were very aggressive and wars broke out between Moscow and Tartaria. Russians came over sea and river to try to conquer the area.

Muscovite warrior

These outfits were worn as late as the 19th century. The Shaman was considered the strongest and his drum or buben would be slit or burned when he died to release all the powerful spirits.

Tomsk was finally taken by Boris Godunov in the late 1600's

From early merchant, to 19th century merchant in Siberia. The longer the sleeves, the more important.

Some old player pianos and music box etc in the merchants home.

The home of a more typical person. The small home was built around the stove and you would center all activities around it, including sleeping on its upper shelves.

Here are some images from our concert yesterday. There were two other Russian Jazz groups on the bill, a Trad jazz and a vocal jazz group.

We had such a great time performing in this beautiful open air setting. We were interviewed by Siberian TV and newspaper about our music and impressions of Tomsk.

When we first arrived it looked like it was snowing these big flakes, but it was actually tree pollen called, Puh.

We played at the summer camp for English immersion and we had each section greet us in a special rhyme in English. We played a song and then the students joined us on a song they had prepared; John Lennon's Imagine. It was such a wonderful experience to play along with these Russian children singing in English.
They had said that there was a small keyboard, a couple if little amps and a virtual drum set. They had meant that the keyboard had a couple of buttons that could generate a beat or two;)
I raided there arts and crafts/music room looking for something that I could play for the set. I found this;

The kids were screaming after every number and even got up to dance in front of the stage;)

They presented us with some arts and craft things they made for us and baked us a loaf of bread;)

We went outside and were mobbed by the kids wanting autographs and pics.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

It Might Get Loud

Danny; Kaluga Russia, 6/6/13
Last night we played an outdoor concert in Kaluga Russia called Summer Jam. It's part of an international guitar festival run by our host Oleg Akimov here in Kaluga

It was an all day event that featured performances by local bands, a Russian Blues singer, a great guitar violin duo called Two Siberians and our band to close the show. I've often found that outdoor festivals have a few things in common and one of those commonalities is volume. My ears are ringing today as must be the whole crowd. Combine a guitar festival and an outdoor festival and well, you get the idea;)

We played for about an hour and after the first few tunes, it turned into a dance party. Johnny really knows how to get the crowd going and what songs to call to keep it going. He really takes the temperature of the crowd especially since he jumped off the stage and spent most of the time singing and dancing with the audience. These evening shows are even better because the sun stays up past 10.

I took a walk around the area while we were waiting to play.

After the show, our hosts took us to a great Rock & Roll bar in the area where we were treated to some great food and music. They had a very interesting bathroom dedicated to drumming;)

The next morning, they took u to the Russian Space Museum and it is just amazing to see everything from Sputnik to the current spaceships that go to the international space station.

There has been so much cooperation between the US and Russian space agency's over the years and I have read of many great friendships that were formed between the astronauts. Because they have the amazing opportunity to see the Earth from space, I'm sure they gain great insight and a realization that we are all of one planet, one living organism hurling through the black void of space united by life.