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How a Russian-Born Philadelphian Helped Give New Life to a Song Van Cliburn Loved

Gregory Manchess
Van Cliburn

When American pianist Van Cliburn died in 2013, funeral organizers in Texas couldn’t locate an obscure piece of music he’d requested for the service. But as WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, thanks to a Philadelphia connection, the Russian folk song was found, and is now enjoying new life in America. "Vanya Klibern," as he was called in Russia, says Inna Lobanova-Heasley, was "a rock star" there.

Susan talks with Russian-born Philadelphia resident Inna Lobanova-Heasley, who tells the story of how she located the Russian folk song "Ducks are Flying," and helped fulfill one of the last wishes of the celebrated American pianist Van Cliburn.

Here are several ensembles presenting the Russian folk song performed at Van Cliburn's funeral service.

The Voronezh State Folk Choir (Russian)


Schola Cantorum of Texas performing "Ducks are Flying."

The Bel Canto Children’s Chorus (Red Hill, PA)


The Dallas Recorder Society


Inna Lobanova-Heasley's original blog post about the story

Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.