Serge Jaroff and His Don Cossack Choir: Two Rare Scores at the University of North Texas Music Library Page: 3 of 7
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[Odnozvuchno gremit kolokolchik] The singers, who always memorized all of
their music, knew to watch his every move. The effects they achieved with his
relentless attention to detail were stunning.
In the course of its existence, the choir gave over 10,000 concerts in countries
all over the world. The only places they could not go were Russia and the
Eastern Bloc countries. They sang for everyone from emperors and kings to
ordinary citizens in small towns, holding forth in venues as grand as
Buckingham Palace or as modest as a high school auditorium. They
constantly played to sold-out houses, and sold millions of records. Ardent
fans, some of whom are world-class discographers, have amassed vast
collections of their recordings, encompassing formats from 78s to CDs.
Fast forward to the 21st century. I had not thought of Serge Jaroff for some
time, but then I ran across a New York Times story that really caught my
attention. It read rather like a spy novel. Jaroff had died in 1985 and his wife
had died in 1997; in 2007, whoever was supposed to be taking care of his small
house in New Jersey abandoned his personal effects. A shady antiques dealer
came along and saw part of them in a dumpster outside the house. Perceiving
a windfall, she went dumpster diving and took many of the items home.
Enter two musicologists, a Russian, Dr. Svetlana Zvereva, and her Scottish
husband, Dr. Stuart Campbell. As I understand it, they came from Europe to
try to help with this crisis. The dealer gave them a number of items to take to
Russia for donation to a museum. Then after they left, she realized how
monetarily valuable said items must be, accused them of stealing them, and
called the police. Officers in at least two countries were involved in the
investigation. The musicologists, who donated what they received to
Moscow's Glinka Museum of Musical Culture, were exonerated.
If in fact there was wrongdoing, the most likely suspect was probably the
shady antiques dealer herself. Interestingly enough, well before this debacle,
she had a police record. For years she has reportedly been selling a steady
stream of Jaroff's belongings on e-bay. On the other hand, if she had not
come along, perhaps everything would have been lost. Whatever the case,
someone probably stole many important items from that house, and many
more were probably thrown into the trash, which is indeed a real tragedy.
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Arnold, Donna M. Serge Jaroff and His Don Cossack Choir: Two Rare Scores at the University of North Texas Music Library, text, 2015; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc801994/m1/3/: accessed November 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Music Library.