Monday, May 7, 2012

Olya Lantseva & Chuck Owston: Native Land

A number of years ago, I found a book that chronicled how my grandmother’s family was connected to Edward III of England. Three of her ancestral lines named Gardner were descended from Edward’s son John de Gaunt. With a connection to a crown head of Europe, it was easy to trace his ancestors to other earlier royalty from all across the continent. One piqued the interest of my brother Chuck and that was our 35th great-grandfather, Yaroslav I, the Grand Duke of the Kievan Rus'. He was also known as Yaroslav the Wise.

The story of Yaroslav is intertwined with that of his daughter, Anna Yaroslavna, our 34th great grandmother. Her mother, Ingegerd Olofsdotter, Princess of Sweden, supervised her instruction in Latin, Classical Greek, and the medical sciences. Anna had an equivalent to a classical university education at the age of 18. In 1049, she became the second wife of Henry I and the Queen of France.

It is said that Henry, a widower, could not find a suitable bride within Western Europe that was not already related to him. So he had sent an embassage to Kiev to request Anna’s hand in marriage, and Yaroslav, wishing to create alliances accepted King Henry’s offer.

Although a queen and eventually the regent for her seven year-old son Phillip, Anna despised France. She was far from her Orthodox upbringing and even wrote to her father, “What a barbarous country you sent me to – the dwellings are somber, the churches horrendous and the morals – terrible.”

Olya Lantseva

Today’s song was the concept of Chuck Owston who sent the idea to Olya Lantseva in Russia and asked her to compose a song that sounded like a traditional Russian ballad. Olya asked poet Dimitri Dubinin to write the Russian lyrics.

Chuck Owston

Here’s Chuck’s original concepts that Dimitri used to write the lyrics.
First Verse: She's leaving Mother Russia, going to a new country (France) and she's very apprehensive. She's leaving behind beautiful Kiev, her family, all that she holds dear, her faith is strong that all will be for the best, but she still worries. She is going to marry a man she doesn't even know, for political purposes (Yaroslav married all of his children to foreign royalty).

Chorus: Something about her beautiful homeland, will she ever see it again? Will she ever walk again through the golden fields of wheat or see the beautiful trees in autumn, the winter snows on the river. And what lies ahead, she knows not.

Second Verse: She's thinks back about her childhood as a Princess of the Rus. She had such dreams, of a handsome man who would someday be her husband, a man she could love. (Does she love Henry, this Frenchman? How can she? He is unknown to her). Will she have children in this new land (she did, obviously), and will she be buried there (she was).

Third Verse: Years have passed. She gazes out of the window of her palace, eastward, toward her homeland. There is an aching in her heart. She knows that she can never return, except in her memories. Her husband is dead; her children gone; she is all alone in a strange land, surrounded by strange people with different customs. Her Russian soul cries out for home.
Olya wrote the music and emailed Chuck musical charts and he recorded all of the instrumentation and added three Gregorian chant like vocals to the third verse. His instrumentation includes the following: acoustic guitars, lead electric guitar, octave mandolin, keyboard, and balalaika. The backing tracks were recorded in suburban Pittsburgh and the lead and harmony vocals in Kaliningrad.

I may be a little biased, but I believe that this is the best sounding recording project in which Chuck has been involved.

Russian Lyrics

Запорошен двор белой нежностью,

В зимней зореньке я ищу покой,

Ведь печаль в груди, белоснежная

Шепчет ласково: будешь ты другой,

За морями люд, буйной вьюгою,

Черным вороном позабыл себя,

За горами скорбь, да подругою

Будет вечной для тебя.


Не найти простор, краше родного,

Где метели плед, на плечах полей,

Что в осенних снах теплым золотом

Вдаль несет крик журавлей.

Жемчуг горьких слез на моих щеках,

В детство доброе мне откроет дверь,

Там где лето спит в заливных лугах,

И где тропами бродит добрый зверь,

Где дождей лучи с неба свесившись,

Тянут радугу над березами,

Там где горсти звезд благом светятся

Наполняя утро росами.

Вьется лентою коллея в лесу,

Слепит очи снег стороны родной,

Не забыть во век мне Руси красу,

Солнца лик размыт за моей спиной,

В резном тереме, во другом краю,

Выпадает мне тяжка долюшка,

Ведь стезя судьбы, во моем раю -

Потерять свет солнышка.

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