The Jolly String Quartet has just released their brand new album Vintage Revival. Comprising of 10 hymns reimaged, this album brings new life to the beautiful old words and melodies that have served as timeless reminders of the beauty of God's creation, the comfort he brings us in hard times, and the revival he brings to our lives!
Q: Thank you for doing this interview with us. As far as I understand, all four of you are adopted. Tell us more about your family.
Yes, we are all adopted! We're so thankful that God chose to redeem us in this way because each of us began our lives in a very dark place - a Russian orphanage. We were all born in the same city in Far East Russia, and we are the oldest of seven children that our parents have adopted. Viktor and Gorsha came home first. Viktor was almost three years old, and Gorsha was sixteen months old. They are biological brothers (the only members of our family who are biologically related). However, they had never met until our parents met them for the first time. They had been separated by age in the orphanage, and Viktor was about to be moved to an orphanage for older children. They might never have met if they hadn't been adopted!
When our parents made their first trip to Russia, they were overwhelmed by the deplorable conditions at the orphanage and the staggering scope of what seemed to be utter hopelessness. Being surrounded by children with hands outstretched crying, "Mama! Papa!" was an experience they could not forget. The Lord opened their eyes to a tremendous need. Two years after Viktor and Gorsha came home, our parents went back with Viktor and Gorsha to adopt Yara and Kristina.
Yara and Kristina were both five when they came home. We now had three five-year-olds in our house, and Gorsha was three-and-a-half. It was a circus! Actually it was already a quartet, we just didn't know it yet.
About six years later, we all went back to Russia to adopt our little brother, Dima. Our brothers Joseph and Theo came home from China a few years after that. Our family is a little unique in the way it was put together, and we have all had significant challenges to overcome from being institutionalized in our early, formative years; aside from that, though, we are a "normal" American family. We may be from Russia, but we've got some deep Southern roots now - y'all!
Q: I believe all of you are also musically trained. What instruments do you play? And how did that love for music start and developed?
Gorsha is our lead singer. He plays violin, mandolin, and even a little bit of guitar. Yara plays viola and violin and brings harmony with BGVs. Kristina plays cello and lays down some bass lines with the cello for us. Viktor is practically a one-man band! He plays violin, guitar, piano, and he even learned a little bit of banjo for our new album. He sings lead on some songs and you'll hear him on BGVs as well. We were all classically trained, and at the heart of our music is a string quartet; but our music is far from sleepy classical. We love all kinds of music and incorporate all the music we love into our concerts. If it's great music, we play it - folk, pop, jazz, gospel, blues, and bluegrass. From Vivaldi to Sinatra to Cash to Stevie Wonder and originals, you'll hear a little bit of everything when you see us live.
We were homeschooled and since our mom is an artist, she wanted the arts to be part of our curriculum. She taught us to draw and paint and gave us music lessons. Singing came naturally for the boys, and we all had to practice our instruments every day - just like we did our other schoolwork every day.
One day when we were still very young, she saw us all with our instruments and thought, "We have three violins and a cello. That's a string quartet!" So she plunked out four parts of a hymn on the piano and taught each of us our part (neither she nor our dad is a musician, but they can both read music). The next day she had us play all our parts together. We loved how it sounded! She worked out a few more hymns and other songs for us, and we began playing in nursing homes and at church.
Our mom's intention was for music to simply be a part of our education; but it soon became a part of our lives, and now we really can't imagine not being able to make music together. Our dad, who is a realtor by profession, soon stepped into the role of sound engineer. We've been performing together since we were seven years old, and we are so grateful that we can use music to tell what God has done in our lives - how He brought us together as a family, redeemed us from the darkness of a Russian orphanage, and then redeemed us from our sins.
Q: When and how did you get to work on your debut album "Vintage Revival"?
It's a project that has been a long time in the making. We actually began recording it about four years ago but weren't happy with the direction it was taking. We were recording in our home studio, and then we moved to the country where we planned on building a better studio to finish our album and do other projects as well. The only catch was that we had to live in an old tobacco barn for two-and-a-half years while we built our house. Let's just say it was an unplanned adventure into the territory of no heat and no air conditioning. The boys chopped and split wood for an old wood stove almost every day in the winter. We stood outside in the shade or went to the store to cool off in the summer. Living in the red metal barn was like living in a big red pressure cooker, and our ideas for the album were put on a slow simmer on the back burner for almost three years.
The boys got their "YouTube Construction Degrees" during the pandemic, and for fourteen months we became a band of builders - a bunch of musicians hammering nails, installing insulation, plumbing, and electrical, painting for weeks on end, fabricating our own countertops, and sweeping up the monstrous mess at the end of every day. We had at least two of every tool imaginable but didn't touch our instruments for months. It made no sense. We were so frustrated. We loved building the house because we enjoy the creative process; but we are musicians, and we wanted to make music. Little did we know that the Lord wanted to do a little fixer-upper on us. He used that time to mature us spiritually and knit us together as a family in ways we had never experienced before. Hard physical labor and sharing one bathroom with nine people can do that. God has a sense of humor!
When we finished our house, we began recording again - this time in our new studio. Viktor and Gorsha recorded, produced, and mixed the album, and everyone contributed creatively. We were able to do everything from the music to the photo shoot to the album design and graphics ourselves. It was truly a labor of love; and the gratitude and satisfaction of living out our calling with our family in a place we built together is difficult to put into words. We are so thankful for what God has done.
Q: Why did you entitle it "Vintage Revival"?
We wanted to "revive" some of our favorite hymns and worship songs that we grew up singing by reimagining them stylistically using styles like folk, gospel, and blues - we even broke some rules by throwing in some bluegrass and classical on the same album! You'll have to give it a listen for it to make sense. We think you'll really like it.
The desire of each of our hearts is also for spiritual revival. We're asking the Lord to give His Church new life that can only be found in an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ. We think there's never been a better time than right now for these reminders of the beauty of God's creation, the comfort He brings us in times of trouble, and the revival that He brings to our lives.
Q: Since there are so many hymns out there, how did you narrow down your song selection?
Yes, there are a lot of hymns! Many hymns and older worship songs with a timeless message are often overlooked and forgotten. That's why we wanted to revive them with our own twist on traditional. We've been singing most of these songs since we were little and simply chose ones that have special meaning to us.
For instance, Viktor and Gorsha found a Geoff Moore CD in our attic when they were only eleven and twelve years old. They stayed up most of the night that night, turned headphones into a microphone, transformed their closet into a recording booth, and recorded their version of Listen to Our Hearts. That song is special to us because it expresses our thankfulness for God's redemption of our lives. How Great Thou Art was one of Viktor's favorites. He arranged it when he was much younger, and we've been performing it for several years. Blessed Assurance has been a collective favorite, and we knew we wanted a soulful blues rendition of that one. Each song was selected for a special reason and matched musically with the genre we thought suited it best.
Q: What were some of the highlights in the making of this record?
Overall, it was just the fact that we were involved in every aspect of creating this project together from start to finish. We were all able to use our unique, God-given gifts to complete a work for His glory. He used this process to remind us of how He intends the Body of Christ to work together and that everything is done on His timetable according to His plan, not ours.
Q: How can our readers get to know more about you and maybe even catch you live?
They can find us on all social media, of course, and our website (thejollystringquartet.com) tells more of our story. We also have videos and links to our music on our website. Our vlogs give a humorous glimpse into life in the barn and building of our house and studio, and we have a podcast of our adoption story. We play at Puckett's in Nashville, Franklin, and the surrounding Middle Tennessee area on a regular basis. Our website has our concert schedule, and our booking contact is firstname.lastname@example.org.