International Beatles Festival in Moscow

Text by Helen Borodina, photos by Helen Borodina unless otherwise indicated

British, Brazilian and Russian musicians come together for the 13th annual Beatles Festival in Moscow hosted by Beatles.ru – to once again remind us that all we need is love.

“I’ve got no words even in Portuguese to express how I feel about being here. Tomorrow I’m going to visit tourist sites, to tell everyone at home ‘I’ve been there’, because in Brazil, saying you’re going to Russia is like saying you’re going to the Moon” – says the Brazilian musician Aggeu Marquis as we talk backstage after his set at the International Beatles Festival at the Theater Club in Moscow. He has a strong Liverpool accent.  “It’s a very emotional thing for me, for many reasons. Being here, playing Beatles music with my Beatles fan friends. You know, it’s such a fantastic thing. I’ve been a doctor all my life. I was a medical student in the 1980’s. My friends and I would get together, and I’d play Beatles songs. When I was in Liverpool with ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Band’, we were invited to recording sessions at Abbey Road. I composed and recorded my very first song in English there. Then I started writing songs in Portuguese and made three records and a DVD that’s now in BlueRay. I’ve been doing this for the past thirty years. It’s a bit like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. During the week – a doctor – a rock musician and a Beatles fan on the weekend.  I was a 6-year-old kid when the Beatles broke up – you may say I heard their echo. Today I’m almost 54, and I run the Brazilian Beatle Week, a 5-day convention supported by the government.”

Brazilian Aggeu Marques shares the Theater Club stage with Anton Efremov, the ‘Paul’ of the Russian Beatles tribute band ‘The Beatlove’.

I’m introduced to him by Evgenia Enenko – known also as Jane ‘Beatles’ – who made headlines in the early 2000’s as a Russian student who came to England and met Sir Paul McCartney.

Evgenia Enenko and Sir Paul McCartney (Photo provided by Evgenia Enenko)

Evgenia told me her story: “It was my first time in England. I went there thanks to a student exchange program. It was a childhood dream coming true. I was a Beatles fan, and walking the streets they had walked, sitting in the cafes there, breathing that air, walking down Matthew Street and Abbey Road was more than I could have hoped for,” she says. “Had anyone told me then that soon I, a student from Chelyabinsk, would be playing on the stage of the Cavern Club where the Beatles had played 292 gigs, – to say nothing of meeting Paul McCartney in person – I wouldn’t have believed it!”

I’m curious to know how Jane managed to meet him – and she obliges: “A fan at the Beatles shop said something about Paul reading his poetry at some event in the near future. That was incredible luck: Paul’s first wife Linda had just passed away, and he wasn’t making any public appearances. I tried my best to find out more about how I could get to the event. It wasn’t easy… But, through a series of absolutely miraculous events I went, and was introduced to Paul McCartney. It was in the news – both in Russia and in England. Then we met again, and again there were photos of me next to Paul in newspapers – this felt wonderful. I was interviewed, too. The very fact of having met him was of a much greater importance – but I remember how happy and proud my Grandmother was when I brought the English newspaper back to my Grandmother in Chelyabinsk.

Zhenya ‘Jane’ on the stage of Cavern Club in Liverpool (from Evgeniya Enenko’s archive)

“It was the turning point of my life, the driving force behind everything I do. It taught me that nothing is impossible. Just believe in your dream, work for it – and it’ll happen – no matter how crazy your dream may be. I was inspired to study English, play music, travel. I made lots of new friends. New horizons that had seemed unattainable were now at hand. Later, I even met Ringo Starr and Sean Lennon and worked as their translator in Russia.

“I’ll never forget my first Beatle Week – I come back every year. I can’t help it! I also represent the Beatle Week in Russia, help our bands – including new ones – have a chance to participate. This festival isn’t just about music – it’s about people. The most special times are when we all – people from Russia, the USA, Ukraine, Great Britain, Japan, Iraq and Canada – stand together, embracing, singing a song we all know and love. I’m sure that such events help in solving the problems the world is facing today.”

Paul McCartney giving his Russian friend a hug (Photo provided by Eugenia Enenko)

Alexey Bogaevsky who met Aggeu in Liverpool, says: “The Beatle Week in Liverpool which, besides Beatles tribute bands, brings together the Kinks, Simon and Garfunkel, Jimi Hendrix and other tribute bands, certainly sets the rhythm for us. We started with events that gathered a couple hundred people in Moscow, with bands playing covers, as a birthday party for Beatles.ru. Then, in 2005, I went to Liverpool and had the idea to create a mass annual event to celebrate the Fab Four. It worked. We bring international and local musicians, and have committed fans who come from different cities. Today, we had two international guests – female blues singer and guitarist Bex Marshall from the UK, who’s played in Moscow before, and Aggeu Marquis whom I invited after I saw him open for the ‘Bootleg Beatles’ in Liverpool, and realized he was from the Brazilian ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Band’ that I liked…”

Alexey Bogaevski, showing thumbs standing next to Sir Paul before the concert at Olympiysky in Moscow, January 2012 (photo provided by Alexey Bogaevsky).

 The festival had two main themes: George Harrison would have turned 75 this year, so every band played one of his songs, and ‘Father McKenzie’ from Rostov-on-Don did a whole set. The popular Moscow-based guitarist Vladimir Kornienko and his White Album band did a live interpretation of the whole White Album which will mark its fiftieth anniversary in November.

Bex Marshall bluesin’ on the Beatles

The ‘Wilbury Twist’ with singer Sergey Gutsan rocked the all-time favourite tunes from the ‘Travelling Wilburies’, the ‘Beat Boys’ and ‘The Beatlove’ played Beatles material from the early 1960’s.

Vladimir Kornienko and Sergey Gutsan

In previous years, we’ve had ‘The Funkles’ – a funk girl-band from Spain, the Beatles’ original drummer Pete Best, Tony Sheridan, even the ‘Quarrymen’ – John Lennon’s schoolmates he played with in the late 1950’s.

Father McKenzie from Rostov-on-Don performing a set of George Harrison songs

Like the Cavern club where the Beatles started in the 1960’s, the festival has two stages – one for Beatles’ cover bands, and the other for bands that cover other artists from the same era – the ‘Doors’, the ‘Stones’ – or play original material.

“It’s a Beatles festival, of course, but we give people a choice. You can’t play the Beatles’ music to a ‘T’, only interpret it, which takes talent.”

Sergey Gutsan, ‘Wilbury Twist’

I ask Alexey what it takes to put the festival together, and how it pays off.

“I’m not doing this to make money, but this year, we actually earned a bit, which means we’ve made the most out of our 1,000,000 roubles budget. But, when a fan puts something like that together, even if he loses money, as long as the event goes well, he’s pleased. Busy at my job – technical director at an IT company – I can only spend a month per year preparing for the festival. If I manage to find more time, we would probably find other sponsors and bring more artists.  Bringing ‘The Hollies’, Ray Davis from ‘The Kinks’ would be fantastic.

Vladimir Kornienko and the ‘White Album Band’: Back in the USSR

Backstage, I also chat with ‘Father McKenzie’s’ Daria Suvorova, graduate of the Rostov Rakhmaninov Conservatory. “I’m a jazz singer,” – she tells me,  – “Today I teach at the Rostov College of Arts. My parents, musicians themselves, forced me to learn classical guitar as a child. I hated it first, and then I came to love it. I don’t consider myself a guitarist in the strict sense, but the guitar definitely helps me when I sing.” The band put together by singer and bass guitarist Oleg Martishin has also performed at the Beatle Week in Liverpool.

‘The Beatlove’ setting the time machine for the early 1960s

“We owe a lot to the Beatle Week in Liverpool,” – says Sergey Rodygin, the John Lennon for ‘The Beatlove’, the Russian official Beatles tribute band. “It gathers about a hundred bands every year. You have to raise your own funds to come and stay in Liverpool, but if you go to play there – you get a lot back. If you do well, you have a chance of getting noticed by festival organizers who come from all over the world. We were invited to play in Paris and at the big Beatles festival in Wasquehal in Northern France. We play a lot around Russia, about 30 cities so far. And we’re thrilled as we’ve just found out we’ve been accepted to play in Liverpool again. This really means a lot.”

‘Beatlove’ took a very ambitious task upon themselves, looking and sounding like The Beatles live on the stage – and they do it well. Sergey explains that his bandmates – Anton Efremov (Paul McCartney), Alexander Varley (George Harrison) and Vitaly Savel’ev (Ringo Starr) – give it their best. And suggests that I come to one of their upcoming gigs.

‘With the Beatlove: (left to right) Sergey Rodygin, Alexander Varley, Helen Borodina, Vitaly Savel’ev (photo by Dmitry Rutsky).

If you have questions about any of the above, feel free to contact me at helen.borodina@outlook.com

You can also contact the musicians directly through their pages:

‘The Beatlove’s’ – concerts, videos and contact info:

https://beatlove.net/

https://www.facebook.com/russianbeatles/

Check out Vladimir Kornienko’s original music and upcoming shows

http://kornei-music.com/

Father MacKenzie, Rostov-on-Don https://www.facebook.com/fathermckenzierussia/

Get in touch with Aggeu Marquis to attend or perform at BH Beatle week in Brazil

http://portalbeatlesbrasil.com.br/new/tag/aggeu-marques/

International Beatle Week in Liverpool

https://www.internationalbeatleweek.com/

 

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