June 2015 Newsletter
A couple of days after Anzac day Sydney Balalaika orchestra players boarded a bus bound for Canberra. It would be a joint celebration.
Australia & Russia hold their respective veteran’s days two weeks apart & the SBO had been invited to perform at Russia’s Victory Day diplomatic celebration, in the James Fairfax theatre at the Australian National Gallery.
It would be an evening of music, memories and coincidences. While Australia had just celebrated 100years since the WW1 Gallipoli landings, Russia was about to celebrate 70 years since the USSR’s victory over Nazi Germany in WW2, a victory that was so important in recent Russian history.
To mark the occasion, the Russian Ambassador to Australia, Vladimir N. Morozov (left) decorated several Russian WW2 veterans, now living in Australia. But as he pinned medals on their chests, he himself may not have been aware of an even more relevant conjunction of events. 100 years earlier, a large number of Russian Anzacs had also landed on the beaches of Gallipoli. They had enlisted in the Australian army!
It is often forgotten that one of the reasons for the Gallipoli campaign, which has become so important in Australia’s history, was to relieve pressure on the Russian forces fighting on the Caucuses front. It is also forgotten that nearly 1000 former citizens of the Russian Empire joined that first ANZAC force; the largest non-Anglo/Celtic group to enlist. So 100 years later, it was most fitting that the SBO was asked to help Russia commemorate a shared experience.
Sadly some Russian Anzacs never returned from Gallipoli. A number of SBO members also lost relatives on those dreadful beaches. EG the SBO’s bass domra player, Patrick O’Neill also had 2 relatives lost on Gallipoli’s beaches. This memorial (right) near the shrine of remembrance in Melbourne pays tribute to those Russian Anzacs. This evening was indeed a shared commemoration.
A Repertoire designed for the evening’s commemoration
The SBO’s repertoire was specially designed to fit the occasion to include songs that were popular during WW2, or as it is known in Russia: the “Great Patriotic War”. The SBO’s principle singers Sophia Markovtsez and Vladimir Shvedov, already perform a number of these war-time songs. But this time, more were added:
Katyusha – a love song about a girl remembering her sweetheart while he was away defending the Motherland. The song became popular during WW2 and became associated with the lethal BM-8 or ‘Katyusha’ rockets the Soviet army showered down on the Germans.
Ah! The Road – a song about a Soviet Army soldier on a long
march during the war. There are many marching songs in the Russian tradition, but on this occasion the road takes a soldier through dust, fog & biting cold, with bullets whistling around him. Then he discovers one of his comrades lying dead in a field.
The Brunette Moldavian Girl – written about the Moldavian partisans as a recruiting song in 1940. The song starts with the ‘Smuglianka Moldavanka’ who’s beauty captured the eye of a young man watching her gather grapes in a nearby field. But to win her heart he has to join the partisans. The song was at first considered too frivolous to be used as a recruiting song & it wasn’t performed until 1944.
And again, for one member of the SBO, this song has a particular resonance. Lucy Voronova’s Grandfather was a partisan in Belarus & was killed in the “Great Patriotic War” fighting against Nazi Germany.
But the final word goes to SBO musical director Victor Serghie: “Following the concert at the National Gallery I was then invited to Canberra by the Russian Ambassador to attend the celebrations of Russia’s National Day. There were about 300 guests in attendance and I was taken aback by the number of people who came up to me to thank us for a fantastic show. A spokesperson for the Embassy also confirmed that they have received many letters and phone calls thanking them for a wonderful concert”.
coming SOON: Sydney Balalaika Orchestra concert
at the Russian Club