Now that the 64 members of this collective are tragically gone, Gao looks at this old ticket "with warmth, love and sadness, remembering that day," he told Sputnik.
The Tu-154 aircraft bound for Syria crashed in the Black Sea off the coast of Sochi on Sunday, shortly after refueling at an airport in the resort city of Adler. All 92 people on board, including members of Alexandrov collective, several journalists and prominent Russian humanitarian activist Elizaveta Glinka, were declared dead.
"I learned about this remarkable ensemble in 2003, while studying in Russia. In 2009, I was lucky enough to perform on the same stage with the artists at the Great Hall of the People [in Beijing], after which I met many of them personally. What impressed me most was the fact that all members of the team — from executives to artists — despite their popularity and fame, were all very modest and helpful people," Gao, who is currently working at the Russian Cultural Center in Beijing, recalled.
Along with many other Chinese, he is mourning the loss, hoping that Russia’s signature Red Army Choir would be restored.
"Today all of my prayers are for the team being reborn so that we were able again to enjoy their magnificent performance in China," Gao stated, reminding that in February 2017 the Alexandrov Ensemble was planning to visit Beijing once again for the Chinese Lunar New Year.
"Since the Soviet Union up to the present time, the team is quite popular with many generations of Chinese citizens … They were enthusiastically accepted by the party leadership and the leadership of the country, from Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Hua Guofeng to Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, the artists were constantly met with a warm welcome from the Chinese public," the Chinese singer added.
Liu Guiyou, academic and former director of the Confucius Institute at the Russian State University for the Humanities, echoed this opinion.
"This is a collective that needs no introduction. Most people in China have heard their songs on television or on the radio; many have attended their concerts when they came to China … This is an outstanding Russian collective – the pride of the country," the academic told Sputnik, adding that the death of the members of the Alexandrov Ensemble has become a great tragedy for many of his fellow countrymen.
"Many Chinese, especially the older generation, knew well and loved their repertoire, their concerts were always sold out. These few days the heap of flowers at the Russian Embassy gate is growing steadily. People leave candles and bouquets, sometimes with notes of condolences in Russian and Chinese," Zinovieva told Sputnik.
On Monday, following the tragedy, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang extended their condolences to their Russian counterparts over the crash of a Russian military plane.