Open Letter to balalaika player Sasha Ressetar
Thank you very much for your mail from April 6, 1998. Too bad, you have
sent it to my old address in Borough Park (Brooklyn). I moved out of that
place long time ago.
I am very happy that you finally decided to start your own Russian Folk
Dance and Music Ensemble. I will be glad to answer all your questions and
help as much as I can.
I'd say it is going to take you about six months to have everything ready.
Unfortunately, all top quality names like "Andreev Orchestra", "Russian
Carnival", Kalinka", "Russian Tea Room" and "Moscow Nights" are already
taken by competition. What you have left is some useless stuff that nobody
can say or remember ("Barynya", "Timonya" or "Skomorokhi"). If I were you,
I'd go for powerful combination of familiar Russian words: "RUSSIAN KALINKA
SAMOVAR" or "MOSCOW GYPSY ARMY".
Hiring musical director is easy. Just get the one that can read music or
else and familiar with the term "Russian Music". Do not get more then one
balalaika player. If you do have more, they will fight or drink each other
to death on the tours.
Yes, I can recommend you the great contrabass balalaika player Leonid Bruk.
He plays with every other Russian band in 500 miles radius around New York
City. Most likely he will play with your group too.
While choosing a singer, you have only two options: male or female. I
already know what your decision will be. Next you have to choose between fat
or thin singer. Fat singers usually have stronger voices, but slim ones are
easier to travel with in a small car. You will also need to make up your
mind between alto and soprano. Remember that most singers are singing in
unsupported by balalaika keys: (G sharp minor and such). It is cheaper if
you sing yourself or force BAYANIST to do it. (The real trick is to stop him
singing after the show is over).
I'd suggest tuning string instruments (balalaikas and domra) at least once a
Repertoire is traditional: "Kalinka", "Katyusha", "Dark Eyes", Dr. Zhivago's
tune, "The Moon is shining" and "Korobushka". If you will start playing
fancy stuff, people will let you know and ask for the right song -
"Kalinka", "Katyusha", "Dark Eyes", Dr. Zhivago's tune, "The Moon is
shining" and "Korobushka".
During concerts you should use a lot of reverberation. Everything your sound
system is capable of. With lots of reverb any music looks professional and
even my voice sounds OK. During gigs always remember: the louder you play,
the more tips you get.
If you are using pre-recoded tracks, be ready that your band is always
behind or ahead. As popular Russian singer Philip Kirkorov once said:
"Everyone can play live, but try to keep up with FANERA (pre-recorded
We did some experimentation with lights. Once we even played in complete
darkness. At the end of the show one third of audience fall asleep, the
other third disappeared and... Well, I will tell you what the rest were
doing in person.
You were asking if it is true that Russian dancers and musicians are
drinking vodka at lunch on the tour. No, it is not. Sometimes they just
have wine instead.
The best time and place to hunt for Russian dancers is Brighton Beach
(Brooklyn, NY) in September. Usually at that time dancers came back from
their long vacations in Eastern Europe hungry for fame and money. Good
Russian male dancer should be able to do 5-7 prysyadkis (Knee-bending) in a
row without falling. Strong female dancer should be able to carry bayanist
and his instrument back to the hotel after a long reception.
Remember that wine stains are less visible on red or black stage costumes.
When you have everything in place, just put your listing on
http://www.BDAA.COM (if you have connections) and
http://www.barynya.com/english.htm (free), sit next to your phone and wait
for the gigs to come up.
Have a beer.
Misha Smirnov, Artisic Director/Founder
Russian folk dance and music ensemble Barynya
It's Barynya Time!