This was the third time that the Sydney Balalaika Orchestra had played at North Sydney’s Independent Theatre, one of the last of the old-style theatres remaining near central Sydney. On Sunday the 15th of October, the SBO gave a concert in one of its “Siberian Adventure” series to rave reviews from an appreciative audience.
It is generally considered that the orchestra played well, but it only sounds as good as it is made to sound. And behind the scenes, making us sound good is Misha Teterin, music teacher, sound engineer and modern jazz pianist extraordinaire.
In an auditorium like the Independent Theatre, built before an understanding of acoustic dynamics, sound can do strange things. Notes that are supposed to dominate don’t. Instruments which are not supposed to sound loud, do, and vice versa. Worse, single notes of a particular frequency may ring, making a screeching sound called “howl-round”, all of which can be very distracting for audience and performers alike.
Misha knows how to balance our instruments for both listeners and players. We would like our audiences to hear a perfectly balanced sound, but such are the vagaries of theatre acoustics, that it is a very lucky musician who gets to hear not just themselves, but all the other instruments.
This is where Misha is a real asset. In this capricious acoustical mix, he knows which instruments are most likely to misbehave. He knows how to position microphones in the best way so he can balance them. He can often be seen prior to a performance during the “sound check”, iPad in hand, adjusting his sound sources; some of them up - others down. And most importantly, he knows which notes are most likely to cause the hated ‘howl-round’. With modern technology, many of these rogue notes can now be isolated.
The fact that his father Victor Serghie is Musical Director of the SBO may have something to do with it. Misha is one of those recording engineers who understands the tonality of Russian folk instruments perfectly and knows how to make them sound magnificent together; a valuable asset indeed for us. We are the only Russian folk orchestra in Australia and Misha is the only sound engineer who knows how to achieve a professional balance.
As for our performance on that Sunday afternoon, many people came up to us to say how amazing the orchestra sounded and how perfectly it was balanced. That was in no small way due to Misha Teterin.
On Sunday 29 October at the Memorial Hall, Bundanoon in the NSW Southern Highlands the SBO gave a concert . Bundanoon is a small village astride the Sydney-Melbourne railway, . . . not that trains stop very often here. And just across the road from the station is our venue, the Soldiers Memorial Hall. It was to this rather unimposing hall that locals and diplomats came to hear a concert of Russian folk music and song. The diplomat was the Russian Ambassador, H.E. Gregory Semienovich Logvinov, his wife, Irina Nikolaevna along with a small team of Embassy officials and they came to hear an orchestra about which they had heard so much. Thanks to many TV broadcasts and concert tours, the SBO has a reputation of high standing in Russia. So it was doubly fitting that the Ambassador should have his first exposure to the SBO in a small Australian country village.
But there was another reason why this concert was significant. It was to Bundanoon in November, 2005 that a team of Russian TV documentary makers from Moscow came to film an Australian Russian folk orchestra giving a concert. It was due to their documentary being aired in Russia that Russians started to learn of this “Down Under” phenomenon, the Sydney Balalaika Orchestra. As a result of the publicity, questions were asked: how was it that such a professional sounding orchestra at the bottom of the world could sound so Russian ? Many invitations for the orchestra to perform in Russia followed with their inaugural tour in 2005 and three Russian tours since. At our Bundanoon concert we performed in front of the Russian Ambassador and we were pleased to hear he was very impressed with the professional performance of the SBO.
A point had been made. A reputation had been enhanced and the SBO had re-established itself in this small rural village. But a circle had also been closed. The SBO’s “Siberian adventure” had all started here, and there’s no sign that it’s going to end here any time soon!
As a footnote, we understand that an American tourist who was making his way south from Queensland just happened to be wandering through Bundanoon that afternoon. He was intrigued at the numbers of people going into the Memorial Hall and noted the presence of some diplomatic dignitaries amongst them. So he went in. Bought a ticket and was "blown away by the experience"; in his own words: "how often do you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, in a small village in Australia and find a real-live Balalaika orchestra providing the cabaret? This,” he said, “I did not expect!!”