The Sydney Balalaika Orchestra was founded more than 30 years ago by Volodya Savitsky. It is dedicated to the folk music of Russia - played on authentic folk instruments - and has a large repertoire traditional Russian folk music and light classics. The orchestra is a microcosm of the multicultural fabric of Australian society with performers from a diverse range of ethnic origins: Armenian, Ukraine, Belarus, Polish, Serbian, N. American as well as Russian and Australian. The performers share their love for the beauty of the authentic Russian folk music, where the mellow, melancholic themes are juxtaposed by the lively, energetic melodies.
Under the direction of Victor Serghie, the Sydney Balalaika Orchestra has long been renowned amongst the concert going public for its polished performances and sparkling presentations.
The orchestra has performed extensively throughout New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria, performing in venues such as the Sydney Opera House, NSW Art Gallery, Riverside theatre, JSPAC, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and various National Folk Festivals.
In 2005 the orchestra toured Far East Russia and Harbin (China) after being invited to perform there by the Russian and Chinese governments.
In July 2007 and in 2011 the orchestra again toured Far East Russia and travelled to the heart of Russia to perform in the cities of Moscow and St Petersburg. It also performed concerts in Christchurch, NZ in support of the earthquake victims and in 2014 by invitation from the Beijing’s Russian Cultural Centre, the orchestra performed 4 concerts in Beijing and Tianjin.
In 2016 the orchestra went on a 21,860 km, 14 day performance tour of Siberia and Far East Russia performing in the "Amur Autumn" festival at Blagoveshvhensk, then onto the Chekhov theatre in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on the island of Sakharlin and finaly to Khabarovsk, the administrative centre for Russia's far eastern provinces.
History of Russian Folk Music and Balalaika ensembles
Picture: Vasily Vasil'yevich Andreev
Andreyev then began a long collaboration with two violin makers, V. Ivanov and Francois Paserbski and a carpenter, Semeon Nalimov. The four set about reconstructing the balalaika by giving it frets, enlarging the soundboard and body, so that it could be performed on the concert stage. Andreyev became an acclaimed balalaika performer and teacher, often known as 'the father of the balalaika'.
In the late 1800's, a young aristocrat named Vasily Vasil'yevich Andreev was probably the first figure in Russian history to start collecting Russian folk songs. Whilst studying in the village of Mar'ino, he became overwhelmed by the beauty of the balalaika sound, the instrument being played by many peasants in his estate. In fact, he even attempted to introduce it into the higher ranked society, but the crude instrument on which he was playing was not welcomed by the Russian aristocracy.
He began experimenting with the instrument, creating a whole family of balalaikas - prima, sekunda, alto, bass and contrabass which provided a full spectrum of sound from soprano to low bass in a manner similar to the string family in the symphony orchestra. Andreyev also added the important domra family of instruments to his orchestra, along with the 'gusli', a table autoharp of the psaltery family.
Three generations of balalaika players have since descended from Andreyev's school. Whilst professional composers have written for the instrument, everything from solo pieces to concertos. However, folk music still dominated in the repertoire of balalaika, which was brought to prominence in Russian music by Vasiliy Andreyev.