• Lyubov Zolotova and the Minne Singers

Interview by John Harrison

Band members:

  • Lyubov Zolotova, founder, lead singer and presenter
  • Francisca Khavrun, singer, keyboards, recorders
  • Nadezhda Petrushina, Keltic harp, recorders
  • Makar Khavrun, percussions

 How and when did you meet?

Lyubov: I first met Francisca at the Native Speakers Café: we were doing one of our music nights, when she walked in with her keyboard and joined in. Soon she was performing beautiful medieval English pieces and I knew we had to do music together!

Nadya: Me and Francisca met many years ago, before we started to sing and play as Minne Singers, and became good friends since then. I joined the choir where she sang, and we took part in it together, and then I learnt to play the soprano recorder and participated more and more. I really loved what we did!

What was the idea behind the band? Why did you choose Medieval English music to be a major part of your repertoire?

Lyubov: The idea behind the band, essentially, was to combine music with language education. I am a bilingual English language coach but music continues to be my big passion in life. For some time, I had been thinking of a way to create programs that would combine language education and music. This is how our leading program, The History of the English Language Through Songs and Poetry, came about.  Interestingly, many songs from various times have survived in Britain, some of them dating back to as early as the 13th century, and they are enchanting! The idea to do a talk about the history of English and illustrate its different milestones with songs and poetry turned out to be a fortunate one: I have received extremely positive feedback from our audience, both in Russia and abroad, and many have admitted that this kind of creative and emotionally engaged learning is far more effective than traditional lectures.

What are some of your other programs?

Another program that we have recently put together is the History of Christmas Carols. I give a talk on how carols originated and evolved, and together we sing a variety of Christmas hymns and carols over various times, from the 12th to the 20th century. We have more ideas for further educational programs,  one of them is English Dialects Through Music, another is The English of Shakespeare through songs and poetry. We also do other musical programs, like  The Slavic Chants (a mix of Slavic folk songs), as well as customized programs.

Where do you get your music from?

Lyubov:  This is the exciting part! We all share a passion for ethnic music of different cultures, but each of us has their own individual tastes and preferences, our own favourites, so to speak.  We all know hundreds of songs that we have picked up over the years and we of course do research when putting programs together. YouTube is an endless source but sometimes you have to search the archives!

It is quite amazing how much old music survives and how underrepresented it is. It is of course a niche market but it lives on as long as there are performers and listeners.

You play some quite exotic instruments. How did you learn to play them? Do you have musical educations/backgrounds?

Nadya: Music has been my greatest hobby since I was very young. I only play by ear and rarely learn anything from notes, because I can’t read them fluently. I took private lessons of piano, but I learn to play all other instruments – the Celtic harp, recorders, and a variety of ethnic instruments – by myself. When I was fifteen, my father gave me my first guitar. I then wanted to learn a wind instrument, and the soprano recorder was the easiest to learn.  Soon, I was playing other recorders: tenor, alto, bass and sopranino. I played a bit of domra (a traditional Russian string instrument) at the teacher-training college where I studied. There was a brilliant music teacher there who introduced me to British folk music. I then heard the Celtic harp on YouTube and became enchanted with the sounds. Its price made me think that I was like a pauper who was in love with a princess. I got a job in a toy shop and I finally bought my harp in 2012, and started to learn to play it.

Lyubov: Music has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember. My grandmother was a choir conductor, my mother a professional pianist, so I grew up surrounded by music. I took piano lessons since I was 4, and singing lessons from the age of 6 (my Mom says I started singing before I began talking!).  My mom personally instructed me in piano for 8 years, and my grandmother helped me to build my voice technique.  So music – singing and playing – was a very natural thing for me, and a great love and joy.

Where do you play at the moment?

Lyubov: Moscow offers an amazing variety of spaces and venues, both large and small. We have performed, among other places, at the British Ambassador’s residence, St. Andrew’s Anglican church, leading cultural and art centres in Moscow, cafes and restaurants, and at private parties. Because we also have educational programs (e.g., The History of the English Language Through Songs and Poetry), we sometimes perform at schools and language centres. We have also been invited to do programs abroad: we did a promotional event for a private language school in Luxembourg July 2017. And recently we have been invited to take part in a major language Skyteach festival hosted by Skyeng online language school that will be broadcasted in 11 Russian cities.

What plans do you have for the future? 

We plan to continue developing our educational programs, there are many ideas to expand on. We feel our programs are in demand, as many people appreciate exposure to authentic English as well as emotionally engaging ways of learning, so we have very a grateful audience. Hopefully, we will liaise more with language schools as well as musical organizations.

How can people find out where you are playing?

We post announcements about our upcoming events on our website, www.lyubovandmsingers.com . We also have a page in Facebook, Lyubov Zolotova and The Minne Singers, you can always find regular updates there.