Founded in 2014, the William & Mary Russian Music Ensemble (RME) is the latest formation to emerge out of W&M’s diverse array of musical groups. What began as a labor of love for ethnomusicologist Jonathan Johnston has evolved into a one-credit course that students across all disciplines can take in order to learn about the cultural history of Eastern Europe and become acquainted with instruments they may have never seen before. The group has an ever-expanding diverse repertoire, which includes Russian, Ukrainian, Serbo-Croatian, Polish, Bulgarian, and Jewish songs.
Despite its youth, the RME has already collaborated with a number of prestigious musicians and organizations, including the Washington Balalaika Society and the Balalaika and Domra Association of America, whose annual convention members will attend this summer. At its last concert, the Ensemble collaborated with Ukrainian balalaika virtuoso Tetiana Khomenko during her first tour of the United States, and in November it will have the pleasure of performing with domra virtuoso Angelina Galashenkova and bayan professional Alla Melnyk.
In addition, the RME has performed at local venues and events, such as the 2017 William & Mary Global Film Festival, during which it helped present Chad Gracia’s Ukrainian documentary The Russian Woodpecker (2015), the Williamsburg Public Library Theatre, and the Foreign Language Association of Virginia (FLAVA) convention at the Williamsburg Hilton Double Tree Hotel in 2016. The RME prides itself on educating audiences about the rich and varied cultures of Eastern Europe. In February 2017, members performed at the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School in Richmond, Virginia to encourage students to pursue Slavic studies in their undergraduate careers.
If you are interested in learning more about the RMC, please visit its student-designed website at https://rmtp.wm.edu/gmcarney/, like our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WMRussianMusic/, and visit our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNr_Fxju5TY.