Sensational Style of Five


Two hours of awesome entertainment captivated me one recent Friday night. For reasons of its inspiration, the continued account of our West Virginia trip must wait another week.

With a quick look and listen to a local morning show, Mark and I caught a glimpse of a Russian folk group that was visiting the Youngstown area. Their music faded at the show’s end as we picked up the voice track “will be performing at YSU’s Bliss Recital Hall on November 14. The concert is free and open to the public.” I missed their name.

Our eyes met with a look of mutual understanding We checked a calendar, noted the 14th was on Friday, and a mental “thumbs-up” settled over us. All four of us could go.

As that Friday afternoon waned, however, it became clear that our girls had not filed the same priorities on their calendars. Each had her own plans for the evening with friends of a younger persuasion. It was their great loss.

Luckily, we entered Bliss Hall nearly a half hour before performance time because it soon became standing room only. From various corners, we heard bits of what we assumed must be Russian being spoken. Five musical comrades, the ones we had seen on morning television, latched hold of the room.

Always thrilled, sometimes chilled, and moved to tears with applause and cheers, I finally paused with the crowd at the end of the first, fast hour. After a break, the five fabulous musicians exercized their tremendous talents for an additional hour displaying a remarkable combination of cool stamina and enthusiastic warmth throughout their passionate performance.

The group, Style of Five, founded in 1993, look at traditional Russian folk instuments in a new way. All five graduates of the St. Petersburg Conservatory show amazing expertise with their individual instruments as they combine talents to create a fascinating blend of old and new. Instruments included the domra, which is a stringed, plucked instrument that dates to the 15th century; an alto domra; the gusli (psaltery), which is the oldest stringed, plucked Russian folk instrument, dating back to the 9th century; the bayan, which is an accordion-like reed keyboard; and a double-bass-balalaika (which is the only intrument I’d heard of). They were almost as beautiful to look at as they were to listen to. A synthesizer added a modern twist.

My words can’t describe what the Style of Five brought to that recital hall. I can only thank Youngstown State for presenting the program and thank the quintet for a wonderful evening. I bought a CD, available through Delos International ( so I could take home their special sound.

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