Luther Balalaika to perform concert Feb. 22

The Luther College Balalaika Ensemble will perform in concert at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22, at Shirley Baker Commons on the Luther campus.

The concert is open to the public with no charge for admission.

Special guest vocalist is Ami Hall, Luther class of 1996, performing artist and educator from Littleton, Colorado.

The ensemble, directed by Luther professor Laurie Iudin-Nelson, will perform classic Russian and Ukrainian folk songs and Romany songs "Kalinka," "The Ural Mountain Ash Tree," "Dark Eyes," "Two Guitars," "Fellows, Unharness Your Horses," the Jewish favorite "Tum Balalaika" and beloved Soviet tunes "Moscow Nights" and "Katiusha."

Members of the ensemble include: Evan Ruchotzke, Luther class of 2014, voice and prima balalaika; Andi Beckendorf, Luther associate professor in library and information studies, contrabass balalaika; Andrea Markert, Luther sophomore, bass domra; Zora Hurst, Luther junior, prima balalaika; Cristen Bublitz, Luther first-year, prima balalaika; Nathan Plass, Luther senior, prima balalaika; Laura Hayes, Luther senior, prima balalaika; Alexander Erikson, Luther senior, prima balalaika; Brian Witte, Luther class of 2014, prima domra; and Iudin-Nelson, accordion.

Iudin-Nelson founded the Balalaika Ensemble in 1992, and has performed with them ever since. The fully costumed ensemble features Russian folk instruments such as the balalaika and domra, as well as vocalists, accordion and percussion.

Performing as far away as San Francisco, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Kansas City, the ensemble has also performed hundreds of concerts of Russian and East European music throughout the Midwest in schools, colleges, churches and community centers.

Iudin-Nelson has also organized service projects for the ensemble, raising thousands of dollars for charitable causes in Russia. She was recently honored for 25 years of service at Concordia Language Villages in Bemidji, Minnesota, and an endowed scholarship was established there in her name.

A member of the Luther faculty since 1992, Iudin-Nelson teaches courses in Russian language, culture, history, literature and film. She serves as the director of Russian studies and Nordic studies.

Iudin-Nelson holds a bachelor's degree from St. Olaf College, a master's degree in Russian studies from the University of Minnesota and a Ph.D. in Slavic languages and literatures from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Balalaika Ensemble