He was a childhood fidget, but grew up with music
Belarusian representative at Slavonic Bazaar Festival interested in philosophy, teaches children singing and loves freestyle wrestling
By Yekaterina Moreva
This year, the qualification event for the Vitebsk festival was less interesting than in previous years, as many of those performing required some polish. The contest places singing ability over all else — unlike Eurovision, where the overall team organisation, performance and, even, promotion play their part. In Vitebsk, singing is all. The international professional jury assesses singers and delivers its verdict: this is an artiste worthy of attention.
Over the years, talents such as Ruslana, Zeljko Joksimovic and Svetlana Slavkovich have performed in Vitebsk, joined by honoured singers of Belarus Irina Dorofeeva and Alena Lanskaya. Meanwhile, Max Lorens (Sapatkov), Piotr Yelfimov, Natalia Podolskaya, Polina Smolova, Gunesh, Victoria Aleshko, Georgy Koldun launched their careers at the Slavonic Bazaar.
This year, both the jury and journalists assessing the performance of the semi-final eight decided that at least a year of preparation is needed before the event, as many of the singers were still ‘raw’. Their time may come in the future. Some of the youngsters at the casting may yet become successful, but they need to work hard to ‘polish’ their talent.
Yevgeny Slavich, a first year student at the Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts, was an obvious favourite. We asked him about his training for the competition, his winning techniques, how to charm the audience and how he views his chances in this prestigious competition.
Yevgeny, did you expect to be representing the country at the Slavonic Bazaar’s young performers’ contests?
I believed that I’d be noticed. This wasn’t connected with expectations, but with hard work to truly present myself on stage. While studying at Minsk State College of Arts, for my ‘Mastery in Variety and Vocal Skills’ speciality, I met a wonderful professor and composer, Yelena Atrashkevich. She influenced me greatly as a singer. I’d taken singing lessons at the Children’s House of Arts since the age of 15, although I tended to fidget when younger, so it was difficult to make me focus. However, time passed and I understood that music and the stage are for me. My performances at school parties and summer camp concerts helped me, as I saw how people listened to me.
Surely, you’ve inherited your talent from someone?
Yes, my grandfather sang very well. He could have made a good career from this but the war and difficult post-war years intervened. People had to rebuild their lives, working hard to provide for their families, so he had no chance of becoming a great singer. In fact, I’m named after him. I do feel that I should make the most of my singing opportunities, since he could not. I began by entering the ‘Young Talents of Belarus’ contest (organised by Belteleradiocompany), the ‘BelAZ Accord’ and the Festival of Songs and Poetry in Molodechno.
Who else has helped you to develop your musical talent?
My mother, who is a pianist. She currently works as a concertmaster, teaching at the School of Arts in Cherven. I also teach singing there now, with five pupils: one boy and four girls. Of course, Ms. Atrashkevich, who is still my teacher, helps me; I’m very grateful to her. Her ‘Snowstorm’, ‘Musician’ and ‘Beloved Mine’ are my most favourite of her songs. I only sing songs which have meaning, as they are most memorable. I think a wise selection of songs will influence my victory in the ‘Slavonic Bazaar’.
Will you sing these in Vitebsk?
The songs are not yet confirmed. In the semi-final, I sang ‘White Church’ (Oleg Molchan’s music and Alexander Legchilov’s lyrics). I realised it was a good choice on hearing the reaction of the audience during the performance. My second song was The ‘Way to the Light’ (music by Raymond Pauls and lyrics by Ilya Reznik). Going on stage, I felt that the jury and the audience would like me, which gave me more confidence.
What was the reaction of students from your year and from your neighbours in the student dormitory on hearing that you are taking part in the competition in Vitebsk?
Many are happy for me, as my friends support me greatly.
You’re interested in philosophy, aren’t you?
I like to read books containing the wisdom of various people but don’t have much time for books just now. My creative work is taking my time, although I sometimes freestyle wrestle.
Tell us about your hometown.
Although my passport states that I was born in Lyuban, I was actually born in Shklov; it’s a mistake. We lived in Shklov briefly before moving to Cherven when I was very small. It’s my real hometown and is very beautiful and smart, as well as being home to kind and friendly people. I hope that their support will help me to achieve success at the ‘Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk’.