On 12 June at the Ice Palace, after yet another successful year, organizers took stock of the White Nights of St Petersburg International Music Festival. Over the course of three days from 10-12 June, talented competitors from 12 countries competed onstage in this music contest. Ultimately however, the grand prize was to remain in Russia, with Nargiz Zakirova convincingly winning the USD 25,000 award. The prize statuette was presented personally by Vladimir Kiselyov, the founder and mastermind of the contest.
The singer said that she would donate the cash prize: "I will do everything I can to help children who are in need of these funds." Many of Nargiz's fans showed great support for the singer by coming to St Petersburg especially for the festival.
This year, the festival also helped propel South African band The Soil into the limelight, with the group taking first place. Their song, "Joy", performed a cappella, received thunderous applause. Singer Cedrina Shari of Jamaica took second place. Third place was claimed by Australian singer Nellie Bell, and Korean group NewUS took the audience prize.
Since it was first held more than 20 years ago, the festival has become one of the most eagerly anticipated music events on the calendar, with a following that extends far beyond Russia. This year was no exception, with performances from international stars Akon, Mother's Finest, In-Grid, Duran Duran, Dan McCafferty, George Clinton, and Village People. However, this year's festival was also marked by a few changes. Since 2014 was dedicated to Russian musical culture, a number of leading Russian pop musicians and bands joined these eminent guests, including Leonid Agutin, Elena Vaenga, Serebro, Grigory Leps, A'Studio, Nyusha, and Zemlyane. A fantastic team of emcees, including Elena Sever, Sati Kazanova, Yurkiss, Andrey Malakhov, Aleksandr Revva, and Dmitry Nagiev, led the festival.
Throughout the competition, there were plenty of surprises for contestants and audience members alike. The first of these surprises was the appearance of senior members of the Russian government, with Russian Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky and Presidential Aide Igor Levitin opening the festival alongside Vladimir Kiselyov.
The stars' performances at the festival were enough to captivate all music lovers and get a glowing appraisal from any critic. The first performance was from Elena Vaenga, who both exemplified the festival's theme and showed herself to be a paragon of the true Russian woman. The singer appeared in a flowing white dress with lilac splashes, perfectly in keeping with the white nights motif. She performed two of her songs.
The rapper Akon then got the crowd going with some of his world-famous hits. In fact, most audience members couldn't help but get up and moving. One of the festival's emcees, young singer YurKiss, got the chance to talk to the star before the concert. As he found out, they both share a love of dancing. The artists met up in a dance studio, where Akon gave YurKiss some tips and convinced him not only to develop his musical talents, but also to continue working on his dance skills. YurKiss also performed his latest song at the festival, "Armani", which went down a storm with the audience.
One of the biggest surprises at the festival was a video message from the President of Russia. Vladimir Putin greeted festival contestants and guests from Latin America. He said he had no doubt that the audience would "go wild for the songs of these notable, seasoned musicians, as well as of the performers just starting out".
The second day of the competition brought a musical surprise in the appearance of Scottish rock singer Dan McCafferty, legendary founder and frontman of the band Nazareth. The rocker dedicated his performance of the ballad "Love Hurts" to festival emcee Elena Vaenga, who had captivated him with her beauty and elegance. Later, during a performance of "Hair of the Dog", McCafferty unexpectedly invited all the contestants up on the stage with him, to their very obvious delight! After all, where else would you have the chance to sing with the world-famous Nazareth?
The headliner of the festival was British group Duran Duran. The band's singer Simon le Bon thanked the crowd, telling them, "We love it here, and we'll definitely be coming back."
Legendary rock group Zemlyane's new song "Mama" also proved to be a highlight. The performance, which featured a military choir, prompted a wave of patriotism to sweep over the venue.
Elena Sever brought yet another pleasant surprise with her love song "Dreams", which she performed while seated at a grand piano made of glass. Afterwards, a special prize was awarded by the White Nights of St Petersburg organizing committee. Yet another accolade, coming this time from Duran Duran frontman Simon Le Bon, was given to Russian competitor Nargiz Zakirova.
The festival closed with a performance by disco kings Village People, whose hit "Y.M.C.A." got the audience up and dancing for the rest of the night.
White Nights of St. Petersburg yet again confirmed its status as Russia's one world-class music festival. This unforgettable, brilliant show with its never-ending stream of music bade farewell until next year, leaving behind it an incredible atmosphere unique to the white nights!