Oregon Cultural Trust

Solidarity through song

Voices from the front: Anton Belov brings a community of singers together through Facebook Karaoke.

|

The pop culture reference point of the moment is Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 thriller Contagion, which is surely streaming into quarantined homes at some kind of record. That COVID-19-inspired resurgence of popularity is justifiably shared with Albert Camus, whose 1947 novel The Plague rendered a pandemic.

For our purposes, however, the most salient line from an artistic rendering of pestilence may be found in Mary Shelley’s little-known novel, The Last Man, published in 1826. Yes, that Mary Shelley. Eight years after she unleashed Frankenstein, Shelley tried her hand at a literary pandemic.

In one section, she laments on the passing of what today we’d call the humanities: “Farewell to the arts, to eloquence,” she wrote. “Farewell to music, and the sound of song… !”

Ah, but Shelley wasn’t on social media.


OREGON IN SHUTDOWN: VOICES FROM THE FRONT


Anton Belov, founder of the Aquilon Music Festival and a Linfield College music professor, recently launched Facebook Karaoke. Photo courtesy: Linfield College

The “sound of song” is alive and well in Yamhill County, thanks in part to the efforts of Aquilon Music Festival founder Anton Belov, who this week began teaching his spring term classes at Linfield College online. Earlier this month, I stumbled upon a video of him on Facebook singing Sunday Morning Coming Down, a Kris Kristoffersen song that was included in Ray Stevens’ final album, Have a Little Talk With Myself, for Monument Records in 1969. Johnny Cash later recorded it for a hit on Billboard’s country chart.

Watching the classically trained Belov bring this country hit to life while hunkered down in his own house is a genuine treat. He is among a great many artists who are doing what they can on Twitter and Facebook to ensure that art finds a way to those of us who need it more than ever. Steve Martin strumming a banjo, Patrick Stewart reading Shakespeare’s sonnets, and Anthony Hopkins playing the piano with a cat perched contentedly on his lap have been a few of my favorites. 

Sponsor

CMNW Summer Festival SB FIXED #1, TP, Top

Belov continued to post new videos, and it wasn’t long before he’d launched a Facebook Karaoke group that now attracts singers from Yamhill County and beyond. I talked with him two years ago before the first Aquilon festival, and caught up with him this week for a Facebook Messenger interview on his latest endeavors. Below is a transcript edited for length and clarity:

When you launched this, were you aware other live Facebook parties were springing up elsewhere?

Belov: Nah, I posted a couple of clips and somebody commented that we should start a group.  So, I did. There is the Quarantine Karaoke group, too, you know. It has 250,000 members! Ours is much smaller, about 500.

Is this the first local karaoke Facebook group?

I’m quite sure it’s a new thing. But we’re not all local. There are singers from all over the U.S.

It’s a unique concert hall!

It is so much fun. We had a live party last night.

Sponsor

All Classical Radio James Depreist

How did that go? How many participated?

I think it was about 12. Everyone went live, one after the other. The videos are still there. The best thing is that it is such a supportive atmosphere.

Other than listening to members of the group on Facebook, what are you doing at home these days?

I’m learning an opera role and working on finishing an album with Oleg Timofeyev, Russian Romances, on SoundCloud. I’m doing the audio editing. That’s a lot of work! My concert with Oleg on March 15 was the first casualty of this crisis. We are all losing so many engagements.

Anton Belov sings “Sunday Morning Coming Down” on Facebook Karaoke.

Oh, that’s right. I remember, I hopped online to listen to it that night and saw it was canceled.

Yup, that one, plus a Texas gig this week, plus an opera in May. The [Aquilon Music] Festival is also up in the air.

I was going to ask about that. Obviously so much of the logistical prep would be happening now.

Sponsor

Oregon Cultural Trust

Yes, it is very stressful. I need to make a decision in the next couple of weeks.

And you have classes resuming at Linfield? How is that going to work?

All online. The courses are going to be OK, but the choirs? How am I supposed to conduct Men’s Glee?

It occurred to me a few days ago that it’s possible this pandemic is actually having the effect of introducing people to music they might not have otherwise heard. I wouldn’t necessarily seek out banjo, for example, but Steve Martin the other day posted a lovely piece he played that really went viral. I listened to it several times.

Wonderful! I agree, it is creating online communities.

Let me throw out a question that Portland’s All Classical radio is posing to listeners: What music brings you peace? What keeps your mind healthy and your heart nourished these days?

My favorite album nowadays is Ana María González’s Asi. Mexican popular music from the 1960s. Superb!

Sponsor

Oregon Cultural Trust

*

This story is supported in part by a grant from the Yamhill County Cultural Coalition, Oregon Cultural Trust, and Oregon Community Foundation.

Be part of our
growing success

Join our Stronger Together Campaign and help ensure a thriving creative community. Your support powers our mission to enhance accessibility, expand content, and unify arts groups across the region.

Together we can make a difference. Give today, knowing a donation that supports our work also benefits countless other organizations. When we are stronger, our entire cultural community is stronger.

Donate Today

Photo Joe Cantrell

David Bates is an Oregon journalist with more than 20 years as a
newspaper editor and reporter in the Willamette Valley, covering
virtually every topic imaginable and with a strong background in
arts/culture journalism. He has lived in Yamhill County since 1996 and
is working as a freelance writer. He has a long history of involvement in
the theater arts, acting and on occasion directing for Gallery Players
of Oregon and other area theaters. You can also find him on
Substack, where he writes about art and culture at Artlandia.

SHARE:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

CMNW Summer Festival SB FIXED #1, TP, Top
Salem World Beat SB FIXED #2
Astoria Open Studios Tour
Lake Oswego Festival of Arts
NW Dance Project
OCCA Monthly
Maryhill Museum of Art
PAM 12 Month
PSU College of the Arts
Oregon Cultural Trust
Oregon ArtsWatch holder
We do this work for you.

Give to our GROW FUND.