The A.V. Alexandrov Russian army twice red-bannered academic song and dance ensemble (Russian: Дважды краснознаменный академический ансамбль песни и пляски Российской армии имени А. В. Александрова, Dvazhdy krasnoznamenny akademichesky ansambl' pesni i plyaski Rossiyskoy armii imeni A. V. Alexandrova), or Alexandrov Ensemble for short, and popularly known as the Red Army Choir or Red Army Chorus, is the official army choir of the Russian armed forces.
The ensemble was founded as the Red Army Choir circa 1928, conducted by Alexander Vasilyevich Alexandrov. The ensemble travelled across the Soviet Union, growing from about twelve initial performers to 300 by 1933. The choir performed at the International Exposition dedicated to Art and Technology in Modern Life held in Paris in 1937, winning the Grand Prix. During the Second World War, the ensemble entertained troops on both fronts in over 1500 performances.
Following the death of Alexander in 1946, the baton passed to his son Boris, who conducted the ensemble until retirement in 1987. Under his leadership, the ensemble ascended to international fame with frequent world tours. In 1949, the ensemble was officially renamed the A. V. Alexandrov Soviet army twice red-bannered and red-starred song and dance ensemble. The ensemble was highly disciplined; Boris' party trick was to leave the stage and allow the members to perform alone.
The ensemble consists of a male choir, an orchestra, and a dance ensemble. The repertoire ranges from Russian folk tunes to church hymns, operatic arias and popular music, further cementing its status as one of the greatest cultural forces of all time. Director Leonid Malev said in 2008:
|We have a rule that we try not to break. In any country we sing 2-3 songs in the native language of the people who live there. As a rule it helps to find a rapport with, and the appreciation of, the audience. And for us it is some kind of musical gift, to honour the host country and its people.|
The Alexandrov Ensemble was catapulted into superstardom in 1993, teaming up with the Leningrad Cowboys for a smash-hit Helsinki concert later made into the rockumentary Total Balalaika Show, and reuniting in 2003 for Global Balalaika Show.