Thursday, January 1, 1970

Army Language School Russian Choir

[September 1953-May 1955]

I joined the Army early 1953 to learn my dad's native tongue and was sent to the Army Language School in Monterey, California. As Providence would have it, the school had a popular extra-curricular choir option, directed by Nicholas Vorobiov of the Russian Orthodox Church in exile. I eventually became bass soloist and began studying singing seriously with Maestro Jakob Petrov of San Francisco. Known as "Gene Kregg", my most popular solo was that of cantor for the Russian Orthodox liturgical chant "God is with us." I am on the front row, 7th from the right.

(click on letters to enlarge)

4 comments:

  1. I was also a member of the Russian Choir, but from April 1958 to February 1959. I graduated from Class R-11-1, the first (and I believe only) USAF 11-month Russian Class.

    I remember Nicholas Vorobiov more vividly than any of our instructors at ALS, and they were all very memorable. I also remember his story regarding how he acquired the scar on his face.

    Even though I sang somewhere between 2nd tenor and baritone at the time, I was asked to sing 1st tenor instead. I never knew I could actually sing that high! Our highlight was the weekend we traveled to San Francisco, stayed a night at the Presidio of San Francisco, and performed for the Russian Community at the Masonic Temple. They were most appreciative and, at one point, I wondered if we might be starting another Russian Revolution. Following Kol' Slaven, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

    I visited the Language School during Open House in 2006, and so much had changed - including the method of teaching. Companies B and C are now completely gone, back to the parade ground it was when it was occupied by the cavalry.

    So many great memories of a place and a time gone by.

    -trw

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  2. Thanks for the memory, Dutch. I don't remember anything about Nikolai Nikolayevich Vorobiov's scar. What was the story?

    I learned from his son, Alex Vorobiov, who is (or was) a vice chancellor of the school that the choir went on to bigger and better performances after I left. Your experience in San Francisco was obviously one of them.

    I took a refresher course at the Language School (now called the Defense Language Institute) in 1994 to prepare for managing a seminar between Russian and American nuclear scientists here in Los Alamos. This was right at the time Russia invaded Chechnya. There were a couple of the old teachers still there, but I don't remember their names now.

    What did you do after ALS?

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  3. Nikolai Nikolayevich Vorobiov was the director of the Russian Choir at the Army Language School at Monterey in 1955-6 and was also director of a Russian gypsy song group of which I was a member (although I was a student in the Hungarian Department -- long story). 'Twas said that he and an instructor in the Ukrainian Department had been Cossack captains who had once thrown knives to determine which of them would possess a Persian slave girl. Nikolai Nikolayevich had a marvelous voice which ranged from baritone to a high tenor. Under his direction I choreographed a Russian dance, Polyanka, which was performed at the Russian Invalids Ball in San Francisco in 1956. I audio-taped the performance and, unfortunately, took it with me to Germany, where it, along with a year and a half of folk music, was mistaken for an interrogation tape and erased while I was on an undercover assignment elsewhere.

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