20160119 Russian Songs and Arias Trevor Merrill EDIT-130.jpg

Five graduate students perform Russian songs and arias in the Mabry Concert Hall on January 19th.

You scuffle through the door, trying to shake the biting winter air from your body. The building is oddly silent and only the sounds of the winter weather outside the pub permeate the air. Suddenly, unknown fingers touch the ivory keys and voices begin to cry out. He sings of doomed love and regret. She sings of fallen warriors and the tender embrace of death. No one in the room dares to make a sound, caught in a trance as the slow, yet steady tide of emotion slowly warms the once chilly atmosphere.

Though APSU does not have a pub on the campus grounds, this was the atmosphere that permeated the Mabry Concert Hall on Jan. 19.

A variety of classic Russian songs were performed by assistant professor Jeffrey Williams and graduate students Lisa Hogan, Tyler Saunders and Joshua Lindsay. They were accompanied by graduate student Justin Finch on the piano. Each song’s lyrics were printed on a pamphlet given out to attendees. For authenticity, the original Russian script was included, but the English translations were also added side-by-side, so the audience could understand what was being sung.

Williams described the majority of these songs as “depressing,” yet took time to explain the historical significance of each piece before the singer performed it.

“And yes, we had to learn the Russian alphabet,” Williams said. “I’m proud of all of them for their performance tonight.”

The songs’ origins were varied, including pieces from Rachmaninoff (1873-1943), Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) and several others.

One of the challenges, according to Williams, was to balance the power of the vocals.

“Tenors tend to overpower the other vocal ranges in English,” Williams said to the audience.

In Russian songs, this is even more so, jokingly described as “beheading” or “poisoning” the other levels.

Despite this hurdle to cross, each performer sang in a way that left the audience completely silent in between each piece. The only other sounds were the enthusiastic applause at the end of the night.