Андрей Истоков - актер, певец, музыкант
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Андрей Истоков - актёр, певец, бард. Пресса о нём.

He's the Town's Telephone Torch Singer.

"The Times" By Clem Cecil

андрей истоков

Luke Tchalenko / For MT

    Andrey Istokov was an out-of-work actor before he revolutionized the singing telegram trade:
    Call Istokov on his land line or his mobile and he'll belt out a tune of your choice - he knows 500 by heart - for free.
    If you turn right after exiting the Dobryninskaya metro station and look up toward the nearest block of flats, you will see a very large poster hanging in a 10th-story window. "I Sing on the Telephone for Free," it reads.
    And, if you listen very hard, you may even hear the faint sound of a folk song or romantic ballad being sung: Andrei Istokov, telephone tune-smith, is hard at work.
    Unable to find a job as an actor and tired of being told to move along by police while busking for handouts on city streets, a desperate-to-sing Istokov decided nine years ago to use the telephone as a tool for locating an audience. At that point, Istokov, 38, placed a notice in two local newspapers, Iz Ruk v Ruki and Vsyo Dlya Vas, that read "I sing on the telephone for free," and waited for the calls to come in.
    As word spread of the unique service Istokov provided, clients began to request that he expand his ministrations to include birthday and anniversary party performances. And thanks to these shows -- which he performs for a fee -- Istokov was able to give up his day job five years ago and begin singing full time.
    Despite the paying party work, however, Istokov remains dedicated to singing on the telephone.
In his bedroom in the Moscow apartment he shares with his parents, a speakerphone stands on Istokov's bedside table.
    "If I'm asleep and the phone rings, I wake up and sing," said Istokov, who receives up to 50 telephone song requests a day, including calls from homesick Russians who live abroad. "If I'm eating and the phone rings, I take the food out of my mouth and sing."Istokov describes himself as an "involuntary altruist."
    "I was forced by circumstance into doing this," he said. "I'm from a simple family and my parents have no contacts in the theater world that would have helped me make [a career] on the stage. Now, the telephone is my theater.
    "When Istokov first began singing over the telephone in 1993, his parents and friends, he said, disapproved of his newfound vocation, calling it demeaning and crazy. But they have since changed their minds."My mother suddenly realized that I was doing well," Istokov said.
    "When I was out, people would telephone and thank her for her son, who had cheered them up. One woman said she'd been suicidal until she called me, and another said her son, a soldier who was nervous and irritable after serving in Afghanistan, was calmer after I sang to him.
    "During an interview in his home on a recent Sunday afternoon, the phone rang and a slightly flustered female voice giggled, "Is this the number advertised? Will you sing a song?" The caller asked Istokov to choose the tune, and he launched into a ballad. After the song, the woman said that she enjoyed it very much, and asked if she could ring again.
    "Do, please," Istokov replied.With his round face and scruffy beard, Istokov is more Cyrano de Bergerac than Romeo, but the lure of his gentle tenor has led to several romances with female callers.
    "Occasionally, I just start talking to a person after a song and we decide to meet."Other callers have come to rely on Istokov in different ways. A woman who suffers from cerebral palsy, for example, has telephoned Istokov to hear a song every day for the last six years.
    Other bedridden or ailing persons also phone regularly, and Istokov has a seemingly endless supply of stories about depressed callers he's cheered up with a song.Children, too, account for a significant share -- about a third -- of Istokov's callers.
    One little boy, Istokov said, telephones early every morning before school from a pay phone outside his home, because there's no phone in the boy's apartment."Parents are often suspicious of me," Istokov said. "They think that I want something from their children, or that they'll suddenly get a huge phone bill in the mail, so I have to reassure them that I'm just a harmless lunatic who likes to sing on the phone.
    "The police have also contacted Istokov on several occasions -- albeit not to hear a song, but because his number has been found among the belongings of people who have gone missing.
    "My number was there, right next to the number of their parents, listed under numbers for emergencies," he said.And Istokov is expanding: A few weeks ago, he purchased a cellular phone.
    "Now, I sing wherever I am," he said, adding that the list of places he's sung on the mobile has included on the bus, in parks and even just standing around wearing an oversized paper hat on which is written -- no surprises here -- "I Sing on the Telephone for Free.
    "Not only does performing on the phone afford him a great deal of extra rehearsal time, but Istokov said it has also led to his developing a completely different attitude toward his audience."I'm no longer afraid of the audience, and I have a better feel for the public," he said.
    "Before, I saw them as a faceless mass, but now they're a group of clearly defined individuals and I try to connect with each of them."If Istokov's success is any indication, telephone performance may be the wave of the future for out-of-work musicians and actors.
    In fact, a local trumpet player and a cellist have already taken a cue from Istokov, both recently beginning to perform over the phone as well. Istokov said that he'd like to join forces with these two, to conduct telephone concerts together.
    But other musicians might have trouble keeping up with Istokov, who said he knows 500 songs (including a few English-language tunes) by heart, but is constantly expanding his repertoire so as not to disappoint callers.
    "Recently, I've had to say no to a few requests," said Istokov, who prefers old Russian ballads, folk songs and popular Soviet-era songs to contemporary pop music.
    "When they ask me to sing [a song by rap singer] Detsl, I get confused."
    Istokov also performs several songs he wrote himself, including "The Ballad of the Telephone Musician" (Pesnya Telefonnogo Artista).
    But, although he said he has been called a saint by callers on several occasions, Istokov said he would charge for his telephone singing if he could.
Despite his popularity, however, the city phone company has refused to grant Istokov a number that would allow him to charge for his services, claiming that such a business could not possibly be profitable.
    And so, Istokov continues to hit all the right notes -- 50 times a day, for free.

    Call Andrey Istokov to request a song at 236-0871 or +7 903 679 29 32.
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