You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Choir tragedy: A look at Russian ensemble wiped out by crash

Associated Press logo Associated Press 12/25/2016 By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, Associated Press
In this photo taken on Thursday, March 31, 2016, the Alexandrov Ensemble choir performs during a concert in Moscow, Russia. A Russian plane with 92 people aboard, including the well-known military band, crashed into the Black Sea on its way to Syria on Sunday, Dec. 25, minutes after takeoff from the resort city of Sochi, the Defense Ministry said. The Tu-154, which belonged to the ministry, was taking the Alexandrov Ensemble to a concert at the Russian air base in Syria. (AP Photo) © The Associated Press In this photo taken on Thursday, March 31, 2016, the Alexandrov Ensemble choir performs during a concert in Moscow, Russia. A Russian plane with 92 people aboard, including the well-known military band, crashed into the Black Sea on its way to Syria on Sunday, Dec. 25, minutes after takeoff from the resort city of Sochi, the Defense Ministry said. The Tu-154, which belonged to the ministry, was taking the Alexandrov Ensemble to a concert at the Russian air base in Syria. (AP Photo)

MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian military choir that lost most of its singers in a plane crash Sunday is often described as the Kremlin's "singing weapon."

A man places a candle at the well-known military choir's building in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016, after a plane carrying 64 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, crashed into the Black Sea minutes after taking off from the resort city of Sochi. The Russian plane was headed for an air base in Syria with 92 people aboard, Russia's Defense Ministry said. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin) © The Associated Press A man places a candle at the well-known military choir's building in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016, after a plane carrying 64 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, crashed into the Black Sea minutes after taking off from the resort city of Sochi. The Russian plane was headed for an air base in Syria with 92 people aboard, Russia's Defense Ministry said. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

The Alexandrov Ensemble, sometimes referred to as the Red Army choir, was founded in the 1920s. It won global fame with its patriotic repertoire during Soviet times, but in recent years has sought to cater to modern audiences. Many of its performances have gone viral, including a rousing rendition of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" by singers in full military dress at the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Flowers lay in front of a photo of a well-known military choir lays flowers at the military choir's building in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016, after a plane carrying 64 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, crashed into the Black Sea minutes after taking off from the resort city of Sochi. The Russian plane was headed for an air base in Syria with 92 people aboard, Russia's Defense Ministry said. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin) © The Associated Press Flowers lay in front of a photo of a well-known military choir lays flowers at the military choir's building in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016, after a plane carrying 64 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, crashed into the Black Sea minutes after taking off from the resort city of Sochi. The Russian plane was headed for an air base in Syria with 92 people aboard, Russia's Defense Ministry said. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Sixty-four members of the ensemble, including director Valery Khalilov, were heading from Sochi to Russia's air base in Syria to perform a New Year's concert for troops when their plane crashed into the Black Sea on Sunday. All 92 people on board are presumed dead.

Flowers and candles are placed at the well-known military choir's building in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016, after a plane carrying 64 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, crashed into the Black Sea minutes after taking off from the resort city of Sochi. The Russian plane was headed for an air base in Syria with 92 people aboard, Russia's Defense Ministry said. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin) © The Associated Press Flowers and candles are placed at the well-known military choir's building in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016, after a plane carrying 64 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, crashed into the Black Sea minutes after taking off from the resort city of Sochi. The Russian plane was headed for an air base in Syria with 92 people aboard, Russia's Defense Ministry said. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

"It's difficult to grasp the scale of that tragedy," Moscow city's culture department head Alexander Kibovsky said in televised remarks. "They were raising pride for our culture, our country, across the entire world."

In this photo taken on Friday, May 9, 2014, Valery Khalilov, the conductor and head of the Alexandrov choir stands during the Victory Day military parade marking the victory in WWII in Red Square. There appeared to be no survivors after the Tu-154 passenger plane operated by the Russian Defense Ministry crashed into the Black Sea Sunday minutes after taking off from Sochi, carrying members of the world-famous Russian army choir to a New Year concert at the Russian military base in Syria. (AP Photo) © The Associated Press In this photo taken on Friday, May 9, 2014, Valery Khalilov, the conductor and head of the Alexandrov choir stands during the Victory Day military parade marking the victory in WWII in Red Square. There appeared to be no survivors after the Tu-154 passenger plane operated by the Russian Defense Ministry crashed into the Black Sea Sunday minutes after taking off from Sochi, carrying members of the world-famous Russian army choir to a New Year concert at the Russian military base in Syria. (AP Photo)

As word of the crash spread Sunday, people placed bouquets of flowers outside the ensemble's Moscow headquarters.

"We all loved this ensemble," said Moscow resident Mark Novikov. "We valued it. They are our brothers, our friends, our colleagues."

The 186-member ensemble includes a band and a dancing troupe along with the choir that had about 70 singers. Viktor Yeliseyev, head of the rival choir of the Russian National Guard, said most of the Alexandrov Ensemble's singers were on the plane.

Among the few who stayed back was soloist Vadim Ananyev, whose wife just delivered a baby and pleaded with him to remain at home to help. The couple has three small children.

"I feel as if I were hit over the head," he said. "I still can't believe it. They are telling me now I was born with a silver spoon."

The Interfax news agency said another member of the choir was denied access to board at the last minute because his foreign passport has expired.

The choir was founded in 1928 by composer and conductor Alexander Alexandrov, and after his death in 1946 was led by his son, Boris Alexandrov. Alexandrov, who headed the choir for more than 40 years, made it famous worldwide.

Pavel Kogan, the director of Moscow State Academic Symphonic Orchestra, described the choir as "a symbol of the country."

"It was impossible to imagine what happened, even in a nightmare," he said, according to Snob online publication.

AdChoices
AdChoices
AdChoices
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon