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Don Cossack Chorus Serge Jaroff

Tichon Askotchensky
Member of the Chorus 1923 1928

Following the defeat of the Whites Tichon Askotchensky (1899 1967) went to Bulgaria and became one of the many Displaced Persons then in Europe and eventually around the world. He joined with Serge Jaroff and his choir when it was still attached to the cathedral of Sofia, and not yet the Don Cossacks. He was part of the debut concert, which was July 3, 1923 at the Hofburg of Vienna. The date of the portrait is around 1926, presumably taken in Europe somewhere, Tichon at the age of 26 (photo collection Philip Ascot and Mona Finley, Australia).

Tichon Semyonovitch Askotchensky was born at February 25, 1899, in a village near Voronezh (Russia). His father was a Russian Orthodox priest. So Tichon was destined for the priesthood too, and he started in theological college at nine years of age.

However, war intervened, and before Tichon was ordained war caused him to enlist and fight in the Civil War in the White forces. He fought under Generals Wrangel and Denikin.

Following the defeat of the Whites Tichon went to Bulgaria. In 1923 it happened that one day on the street he met with somebody he knew from the army. That man was singing in the cathedral, and suggested that he audition for the choir also. Tichon was accepted and joined with Serge Jaroff and his choir, when it was still attached to the cathedral of Sofia, and not yet the Don Cossacks. He became one one of the originals of the choir, part of the debut concert, which was in the »Hofburg« of Vienna. Tichon sang tenor.

On tour Tichon met Elizaveta von Martens, born St.Petersburg, October 17, 1895. They were married December 24, 1927 in Berlin. They came to settle in Australia, arriving August 30, 1928 on the »Orama«. Already before he had spent some time there, together with Nicholas Darin, also chorist since the beginning, who had settled earlier, on Darin's farm that Tichon later bought from him.

These were not easy days for immigrants - no assistance or English lessons. So farming was chosen as a way to make a living while still unable to speak much English. With Tichon and Elizaveta several other Don Cossacks settled likewise, Goliffe, Molchanoff, Bogdanoff, Kameralli. Their farms wer beyond the outskirts of Sidney.

Tichon and Elizaveta had two children, Alex was born in 1931, and Mona in 1940. The Goliffes, Molchanoffs and Bogdanoffs farms were within reasonable distance, 10 to 15 kms. So the families saw each other from from time to time, and they were like aunties and uncles to the children, having no other on this side of the world. It was not a very prosperous life, and their homes were rather humble.

Tichon's voice stayed reasonably good, despite no more having practice, singing occasionally in a church choir and for a few concerts. His voice had a sweet lyrical quality, and in concerts with the Choir he had sung the solo in »Kolokolchik - Evening Bells«, the folk song later on sometimes mentioned by him as »my song«. Sometimes he spoke about making recordings in the 1920's, with wax recordings that ran for a certain length of time. The artist would have to judge somehow what time was left, and speed up or slow down the tempo, or repeat a refrain, or something to make the song fit that space of time.

Elizaveta died in 1945. Later on Tichon re-married Thelma, nee Roughley, a woman of English-Irish descent from a neighbouring farm. A son, Philip, was born 1948. The family heard the Don Cossack concert in 1956 in Australia. Tichon Askotchensky died 1967, after many years of hard life, Thelma 1994.

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