The Pokrovsky Ensemble began as collectors of folk songs, travelling throughout Russian villages and rural farming areas. Since 1973, its members have built a living library of over 2,000 songs. Their collection includes medieval Russian village music, religious music of the country's old and new faiths and modern works of Soviet composers.
In a 1995 interview with The Boston Globe, founder Dmitri Pokrovsky said that from the beginning the ensemble achieved a loyal following among both Russia's intelligentsia and general public. But there was deep trouble with the authorities, whose communist dogma placed a very different emphasis on the proper role of folkways in art. In 1980 the Ministry of Culture banned the troupe from performing in Moscow, and its recordings for state radio were erased. It was six years before conditions began to improve. In the meantime, the group supported itself by performing outside of Moscow. "Making Music Together," a 1988 international festival held in Boston, provided their first trip to the United States. Pokrovsky remembered it as "the beginning of a new life for our group."
The 11-member troupe has now toured the United States, Europe and Japan. Wearing traditional Russian village costumes and performing on ancient instruments, its concerts feature lively recreations of village dances and pagan rituals, some of them more than 2,000 years old. It has been featured on the Today Show, Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt and more than two dozen motion pictures.
Earlier this year, Pokrovsky passed away from heart complications. The group has dedicated its remaining 1996 tour performances to the man whose spirit is thoroughly interwoven in the melodies and dances that he helped to revive.
The Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble performance is the second performance of the Hamilton Performing Arts Series. Additional performances in the series include Sol y Canto, Friday, Feb. 14; Huun-Huur-Tu Music of Tuva, Thursday, Feb. 27; and National Theatre of the Deaf's presentation of Curiouser and Curiouser, Sunday, March 9. Tickets for the series, including the Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble performance, are $40 for the general public and $10 for students.