The Washington Balalaika Society Orchestra, the largest of its kind in North America, is comprised of more than 60 musicians dedicated to studying, preserving and performing on authentic and traditional folk instruments works from the rich musical heritage of Slavic countries including Russia, Ukraine, and Eastern Europe.
The orchestra is made up of balalaikas, often referred to as “the three-stringed Russian guitar,” and domras, which are mandolin-sized lutes, along with bayans, a type of button accordion, and various woodwind and percussion instruments. Programs include selections by classical Russian composers, regional folk songs and dances and new music that explores the possibilities of this unique family of instruments.
Guest artist Olga Orlovskaya descends from a long line of talented musicians. Great-great-granddaughter of the legendary opera singer Feodor Chaliapin, she graduated with honors from the Russian Academy of Music and went on to win first prize for Best Performance in the international “Operetta Land” competition in Moscow. Since 2001, Orlovskaya has garnered numerous prizes at international opera competitions in France, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Moscow and Italy, and tours extensively throughout Europe and the U.S.
Featured members of the WBS Orchestra include conductor and artistic director Svetlana Nikonova, who graduated from one of Russia's preeminent conservatories, and Peter Omelchenko, a virtuoso domra soloist who grew up in the south of Russia among the rich folk music traditions of the Cossack people. The orchestra has performed at the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Smithsonian Institution, Embassy of the Russian Federation, Constitution Hall and numerous other venues.
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This performance is supported in part by the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.