Imagine, more than 100 balalaikas and domras on one stage all at once. Now there's a sight to make Dr. Zhivago proud!
That's what's going to happen when the Balalaika Domra Association of America (BDAA) national convention rolls into town this week. The convention will host a series of events open to the public, including workshops in Russian folk dances, lectures on ethnomusicology and lessons in playing as well as repairing your balalaika and domra. But the big event is the convention closer, a concert by the 125 members of the BDAA Festival Orchestra.
"Traditionally orchestras like this -- there are about dozen around the country -- have 12 to 25 members," says Washington Balalaika Society President Joel Leonard. "In the Soviet Union, they can get as high as 50 or 75 or even a hundred. This one will probably be the largest balalaika orchestra assembled outside the Soviet Union and certainly in the U.S."
The orchestra will feature members of American and Soviet balalaika orchestras, and there will be two dancers onstage performing traditional Ukrainian and Russian dances. However, the concert's special guest is 75-year-old Muscovite Pavel Necheperenko, considered by many to be the world's leading balalaikist.
"He is like the Horowitz of the balalaika world," says Leonard. "He is the one who writes the textbooks that the masters learn from."
The Russian Festival Balalaika Concert is Saturday night at 7:30 at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium. Tickets are $12 and $16 and available at Ticketron. For information, call 549-2010.