Scandal over boys choir performing prison song

A YouTube video of boys from an award-winning chorus school performing a famous prison song has sparked controversy in Russia.

At the center of the scandal is the Boys Chorus Capella in the city of Perm, a prestigious singing school with almost 50 years of history. The kids are usually taught academic songs.

However, a video uploaded to YouTube shows some 35 singers aged 10 to 12 performing with angelic voices a lowlier kind of song – the most famous Russian prison song Murka.

The boys, telling a story of a beauty who betrayed her criminal lover and his friends to the law and was killed in revenge, sparked fury on the internet. Some went as far as calling for those responsible to be promptly sent to the place where such music is more appreciated – a Siberian prison.

The origin of the controversial footage was easy to establish. It was produced by Ivan Kolpakov, editor-in-chief of a local news website, as a tongue-in-cheek present for the organizers of a “Russian chanson” festival held in early February.

Russian chanson has little to do with its French counterpart and is a euphemism for prison songs, although this music genre has incorporated much from non-criminal origins over the years. Kolpakov says he wanted to make a profoundly absurd response to the festival. He certainly managed to reach his goal, and many internet users say the joke was a good one.

Head of the chorus school Larisa Noskova, was apparently baffled by the performance’s appearance on the web, stating her “firm denial of the published material”, as cited by Kommersant newspaper. She later said she was not aware of what exactly the chorus was to perform on Kolpakov’s request and put the blame on the chorus teacher Valery Tsiganov. However she said the man, who has been teaching singing for many years, will not lose his job over the incident.

The city administration has launched an investigation into the situation.