Drivers, workers, and policemen play in the Uglich recreation center’s brass band. The vocalist hosts a children’s program on local television, while the drummer performs as Father Frost at New Year’s celebrations.
Most of the musicians played in the October Club Brass Band as children, and the current ensemble is named the Sysoyev Pop and Brass Band in memory of Alexander Sysoyev, who came to town in 1945, after the war, and organized it. When they grew up, the children went to the army, most often serving in military bands, and if they returned to Uglich, they continued to play. There were two brass bands in the city – at the watch factory and at the engineering works.
In the nineties, the factories shut down and the bands broke up: the musicians were not up to playing music, many of them were just trying to survive. A new band featuring the old musicians was formed in the early noughties thanks to the city’s mayor, Eleonora Sheremetyeva.
The band rehearses in the rec center on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and sometimes performs in towns for local residents. We hear the stories of the musicians in this documentary film by Yulia Vishnevetskaya, Renato Serrano and Nikita Tatarsky.
“On the corner was the October Club, also called 30 Years of the Komsomol Club. There was a brass band on the second floor, led by Alexander Pavlovich Sysoev. He would recruit us kids. People worked at the watch factory. I ended up in the assembly shop: I assembled watches. The team consisted of forty young women and little old me. It was a great place to work. I worked on the ‘action’: that was one of the jobs.”
“I started leading the band in the late 80s. After a while I went into business and didn’t play for more than ten years, but fate put me back in touch with the band and I returned. I have a transport company. In the mornings, I dispatch cars and buses to places, and sometimes I get behind the wheel myself, and in the evenings I go to practice. Of course, the world of music and the world of transport are completely different things. I don’t usually get distracted when I’m here. You go off into the world of music, and the outside world is somewhere far away: you are only making music… Previously, there were two bands, at the watch factory and at the engineering works. Then, in the early nineties, the factories fell apart. All the musicians came together in a single band: some came from the watch factory, some from the engineering works, someone from somewhere else , someone from the police. Like in Shufutinsky’s song, we have a jazz band, only there is no dentist.”
“I worked in the militia [the previous name for the Russian police] for twenty-five years, and then transferred to the police in 2011 [meaning, when it was renamed]. I might have retired already, but I have a kid to educate, and we pay for his tuition. I do forensic examinations: I’m qualified to analyze fingerprints, trace evidence, and bladed weapons. I hadn’t picked up an instrument for seventeen years. I listened to the band play once, twice, and I thought that I also used to know all this stuff. It was a good thing that the band believed me and let me join. I had to look around on Avito for a horn just like the one I had before. I took the bus to Moscow to buy it… I don’t remember the thefts, but I do remember the murders, of course. There was a cruel murder: a man was hacked with an axe. I can talk about it because the trial has happened. The man didn’t have a head: it was in two pieces. Then a man was strangled. We found the criminal through fingerprints. Bottles were confiscated, and I found handprints and fingerprints on them, which we ran through the computer. The computer doesn’t do things as quickly as in the movies. They’re just fooling people: it’s not comparable. If they showed the way it really worked, no one would watch them. It’s very painstaking work. They brought me several boxes of bottles. I had to process each one of them — lift the prints from them, weed out the witnesses and victims who could have drunk from those bottles. Consequently, we found the people who strangled him in the woods: they had a conflict. Traces are always left behind: trace scents, body oil and sweat, DNA. If there are no fingerprints, there are shoe prints, tire prints, traces left by burglary tools. I have twenty years of experience… People aren’t lined up to replace me. People retire, but there’s no one to replace them. People can’t take it: they’re not machines. I come here and play, so it seems I want to go on living. The negative effects of work build up all the same. When I perform I get goosebumps, honestly. If I have goosebumps, it means we’ve played well.”
Source: Radio Svoboda. Photos of the Sysoyev Pop and Brass Band courtesy of Uglich-Online. Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader