Local singers return from Russian tour

The popular local comedy acapella quartet, Delusions of Grandeur, returned last week from participating in the 8th Annual Russian-American Barbershop Harmony Festival held in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Since the Festival began, there has been an increase in the numbers of Russian people forming acapella groups to learn and perform in four part harmony. Dr. Gregory Lyne, the founder of this program, is responsible for introducing the American art form of barbershop singing to the country of Russia. This Festival was recently acclaimed the most successful cultural exchange program in the 200 years of Russian-American relations. Delusions of Grandeur was the first comedy quartet to ever be invited to participate in this Festival.

Delusions of Grandeur joined three other singing groups from the United States in performing six concerts in conjunction with eight Russian groups from as far away as Siberia. Performances were held in sites ranging from the UNESCO World Heritage hall, the Kapella, proclaimed the best hall in the world for choral singing, to palaces, to a theater which had never before been the venue for anything but military concerts, in a town which was only demilitarized seven years ago.

Especially thrilling, according to member Al Robbins' wife and group manager Jan Harrell, was appearing on the stage where Tschaikovsky, Rimskikorsikov, Rachmaninoff and Schumann had performed. The Delusions also performed as the only entertainment at an orphanage for extremely mentally and physically disabled children.

George Gordon, President of the International Fine Arts Institute which organizes worldwide cultural exchanges, said to Jan Harrell, manager of the quartet, about their performance, "Delusions of Grandeur was one of the most popular quartets at this years festival. American Consul General, Mary Kruger was in stitches when the group performed as was the entire audience. Jan, you have no idea what wonderful moments of joy and happiness the quartet provided the audiences of our concerts. The festival is really a celebration of joy and music between the participants and the audiences ... real people-to-people diplomacy at the grass roots level."

Between concerts and sightseeing, the quartet sang on the streets and at open markets. The response was warm, as people came forward to shake their hands, have their picture taken with the quartet, and offer a few rubles or candies in tribute. One group of young vendors rushed forward in between songs, to push matryoshkas, Russian nesting dolls, into the hands of the quartet members.

The quartet members, Al Robins, Tom Walker, Aaron Logsdon and Dave Deller, were very moved by the warmth and responsiveness of the people they met, and of the audiences which attended the concerts. An unforgettable moment for Al Robins was when a man came up to him to shake hands.

"He looked earnestly into my eyes, searching for how to convey what he was feeling, for neither of us spoke the other's language," Robins said. "Finally, beaming with joy, he pointed to himself, and said, 'HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!'"

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