Slavic Festival and Balalaika Concert

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About St. Mary's Balalaika Orchestra

Members of St. Mary's Orthodox Cathedral in Minneapolis, Minnesota have participated in Balalaika ensembles and orchestras since the late 1950's. The first group began in 1956 and played for many years throughout the Twin Cities. Another ensemble was founded in the mid 1970's when a group of women from the Cathedral began playing together at events sponsored by the Cathedral and in the local area.

The current Balalaika orchestra was founded by a former pastor of St. Mary's Cathedral in 1984. Four members of that original orchestra are still a part of the present group which currently has approximately 15 members. Over the past years this orchestra has performed throughout the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, at the Minnesota State Fair, at many functions around Minnesota, cities across the Midwest and the Northeastern US and even into Canada.

With a unique selection of Russian, Ukrainian and Gypsy folk music, the orchestra performs traditional lyrical songs, "dance tunes", and even some modern pieces on authentic Russian folk instruments. Many of our instruments were handed down from former group members and all of them came from Russia.

The Balalaika is the national instrument of Russia, and was made most famous in the movie Dr. Zhivago. It was a simple 3 stringed peasant instrument until the 19th Century, when Vasily V. Andreyev, a nobleman, studying the violin, was attracted to it. He spent the rest of his life and fortune developing the instrument. He is renowned for his work in promoting the Balalaika as a world class instrument.

The Balalaika comes in a variety of sizes, from Piccolo to Contra Bass. The lesser known sister instrument of the Balalaika is the Domra. While the Balalaika has a triangular shape, the Domra is round with a rounded bowl-shaped back, it also comes in a variety of sizes from the Prima to the Bass. Our orchestra has Balalaikas in Prima, Secundo, Alto, Bass and Contra Bass and Domras in Prima, Alto, and Bass. Even though the Balalaika is the work horse of the orchestra playing constantly throughout every piece, the Domra is often the showpiece of the music playing the melody and elaborate rich tunes. The orchestra also has a flute and two accordions which complement the sounds of the Balalaika and Domra

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