Sirin is uniquely able to present repertoire ranging from the dark, sonorous style of Old Believers’ church to the haunting songs of spiritual wanderers.
Sirin Ensemble was founded in 1989 by Andrey Kotov, the name of the Ensemble being derived from the name of a bird of Paradise from Russian Christian legends. Before that Andrey Kotov spent many years studying Russian sacred folklore on expeditions to the remotest places of the country where ancient traditions are still preserved. The founding of this Ensemble brought together professional musicians with the common aim of reviving the old Russian musical traditions.
Repertoire of the Sirin Ensemble can be subdivided into 3 parts. A usual concert program includes all of them unless the performance is devoted to one certain style of music. Most chants are performed a capella, while spiritual verses can be accompanied by hurdy-gurdy, psaltery or violin.
These are chants which correspond to certain specific moments of the liturgical office. Polyphonic or homophonic, most of them come from the 17th century manuscripts that are noted according to a complex system of neumes comparable to the hieroglyphic script of an ancient language.
Russian polyphonic chants, whose tradition goes back to the 16th century, are all anonymous and differ completely from what the term polyphony denotes in Western music. Usually in three parts, they are composed of lines totally independent from one another without the occurrence of any notion of harmony or counterpoint in the usual sense of the terms. The effect of the sound to a "classical" ear is astonishingly modern.
This type of polyphony came into opposition with another that appeared in Russia at about the same period (mid-17th century) from Poland, called "Partessian chant", and which constituted the earliest incursions of Western art. These choruses combining classical harmony and counterpoint were directly derived from the Renaissance motet. The development of Partessian chant corresponds to the period of the schism (raskol) in the Russian church during the 1670s. The New Church gradually adopted the imported contrapuntal chants, while the "Old Believers" remained partisans of the ancestral chant and fiercely opposed all Western influence.
Sirin is also familiar with the musical traditions of the early Christian communities of various other countries that were originally linked by important mutual influences. The repertoire of the Sirin Ensemble thus includes chants of the early Roman, Serbian, Byzantine and Georgian Churches.
This is an age-old type of sacred folk music. These songs were not sung in churches but were widespread in the monasteries and Christian communities. They have been preserved both in oral and written tradition. The written tradition originated in the monasteries during the 15th century. It generally consisted of penitential chants written by monks. As the verses became disseminated among the people they were transformed in accordance with local traditions.
Besides the written tradition there is an extremely abundant oral folk tradition expressing meditations on the lives of the saints, on the fate of the human soul, on life and death. During Lent and the seasons of penitence, which occupied a third of the year, as well as on the great religious feasts, these spiritual chants constituted the most significant part of the canticles sung by Christian communities.
CONTEMPORARY SACRED MUSIC
This is mostly music by minimalist composer Vladimir Martynov who wrote a number of Sirin orientated compositions. Among them are large-scale works as The Lamentation of Jeremiah, Litanies and Requiem.
The ensemble has presented its interpretation of Russian church and spiritual folk music on extensive concert tours in Russia and Europe and was multifold prizewinner of renowned choral competitions. Sirin took part in the 1st European Symposium for Choral Music in Ljubliana, World Symposium for Choral Music in Rotterdam, gave performances at various festivals, like the festival in Thoronet and the festival of Old Lyon (France), Musica Sacra in Marktoberdorf (Germany), Old Music in Jaroslaw (Poland), Musica Sacra in Maastricht ( Holland), Trialogos (Estonia), Isle de France (2001), Lufthansa Baroque Festival (Great Britain), Cork International Choral festival (Ireland), Sacred Music in Fribourg (Switzerland), Festival of Sacred Music in Fez, Bangkok Christmas Festival (Thailand), Europalia (Belgium) and many others. Sirin's performances were included in the program for celebrating 2000 years of Christianity in Jerusalem.
Especially for Sirin Ensemble, composer Vladimir Martynov set to music Old Testament's book The Lamentation of Jeremiah. The stage version of The Lamentation of Jeremiah, where all roles are performed by Sirin members, had more than 150 performances in Russia, France (official program of Avignon Theatre Festival), Italy, Germany, Estonia and Sweden. It was awarded with Golden Mask, the highest distinction in Russian theatre, as the best theatrical production of the year.
Andrei Nikolaevici Kotov was born on 11 September 1959, in Moscow. His ancestors migrated from Siberia and brought in the capital city the polyphonic and traditional singing. Since his early childhood, Andrei was listening to traditional chants and he performed in choir and in orchestra, playing traditional instruments such as balaika, domra and contrabass. During his adolescence, he composed chants and was fascinated by contemporary music.
In 1978, he began his studies at Ilnesânâh High School, Traditional Choir Conducting Department, and then he pursued his studies within the academic department. During this period, he founded a traditional ensemble, under the supervision of Dmitri Pokrovskii. After carrying out his national service, he began his professional activity in the traditional ensemble directed by Dmitri Pokrovskii as instrumental performer and singer. In the same period, he performed as a traditional singer, cooperating with the Don Cossacks and with the artists of traditional music in the south of Russia (Kursk Region). He began to study the culture of the Old Believers and the tradition of performing spiritual verses.
Simultaneously, he graduated the Hnesânâah High School and Academy, Choir Conducting Department. As a member of „Dmitri Porkrovskii” Ensemble, he performed in many concerts, he staged the works of the great directors such as Iuri Liubimov (1981 – Boris Godunov), Lev Dodin (1984 – „Poveliteli muh”). Between the years 1986-1987 he undertook an intense academic activity within „Dmitri Pokrovskii” Ensemble where he began to develop his own system of working with sound and rhythm, based on the Russian traditional culture.
In 1989, he founded the Ensemble of Old Russian Music „Sirin”. Since then, Andrei Kotov has been the conductor of the ensemble.
Andrei Kotov’s projects are distinguished by musical finesse. Permanently developing and improving his own system, Andrey Kotov has been organising master classes and trainings for the professional performers in Russia and abroad.
In addition to the performing activity with Sirin Ensemble, Andrei Kotov carries on an intense pedagogical activity, cooperating with traditional ensembles. Among musicians, he is considered “a master of sound”. He is an expert in spiritual, traditional and medieval music, having a vast experience of collaboration with contemporary ethno-jazz musicians, composers and performers, bringing them together under a common idea.