Free gala concert St Kilda Town Hall to celebrate Sputnik’s 25th +2 years on air anniversary

June 8, 2022 by Elana Bowman
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The gala featuring classical and popular works by Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Ysaÿe and others will be performed by an outstanding lineup of musicians and singers, nearly all from the former Soviet Union.

Anna and Gregory Vaisman

Appearing will be husband-and-wife duo Mark Mogilevski (violin) and Elena Mogilevski (piano); Alex Pokryshevsky (singer) and sons Max(xylophonist) and Anton (pianist/composer); pianists Boris Guslitser, Mikhail Solovei, Irina Cherkassky, Larissa Oberfeld and Nadejda Kushnir; violinists Tair Khisambeev and Paige Wu; cellist Elina Faskhi; singers Lara Khronovska ,Rada Tochalny; and folk singers Club Southern Cross.

Also on the bill are young dancers from the Inspiration Dance School and LIDER Sunday Russian School.

The concert will be compered by Lara Khronovska and Eugene Mogilevski.

The program features Ukrainian composers Marc Karminsky and Igor Krutoy with a call for donations to Ukrainian victims.

Husband and wife team, Gregory and Anna Vaisman, who set up Sputnik in 1995, are devastated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“We are particularly upset at the bombing of Odessa, our home town,” Gregory said. “We are upset that the victims are from both sides and struggling.”

“However, we are opposed to banning Russian culture. As the director of the New York Metropolitan Opera said, we should ‘ban Putin, not Pushkin.”

Port Phillip Mayor, Marcus Pearl, will introduce the concert. Martin Foley, the Member for Albert Park and Minister for Health, David Southwick, the Member for Caulfield, will also speak.

Over the past 27 years, Sputnik Russian Cultural and Television Association has produced over 2700 weekly Russian-language Sputnik television programs on Channel 31 and organised 16 concerts, each of which attracted more than 500 people. Its first concert was held in 2008 to mark the re-opening of St Kilda Town Hall.

Sputnik received a festival grant from the City of Port Phillip to hold a 25th anniversary concert in 2020 but had to postpone due to the successive Covid lockdowns.

Sputnik President Gregory Vaisman arrived in Australia with his wife Anna Vaisman and one of their three children in 1991, part of a large group of Jews who left Ukraine in the dying days of the Soviet Union. With 28 years’ experience as a telecommunications engineer, Gregory expected to have no problems getting work.

“However, I came up against Keating’s ‘recession we had to have’ and couldn’t find a job. Nor could Anna, who was a science teacher. That’s why we decided to set up Sputnik. It’s kept us busy – very busy – and we’ve been grateful for the opportunity. It’s been one way of paying back Australia,” he said.

“I was an amateur with a camera but had always wanted to make television. In 1958 – the year after the Sputnik satellite went up – I applied to the television faculty at university but although I got 23 out of a possible 25 marks in the entrance exams, I was excluded. It wasn’t until I went to a gathering of students who had passed the exam but didn’t get in that I discovered why – it was because I was Jewish. Everyone else in the room also happened to be Jewish.”

In 1995, the Sputnik team were able to take advantage of a federal grants program for ethnic television programs to set up their Russian-language program on Channel 31. Over the years, they have secured grants from the Cities of Port Phillip and Glen Eira, the Victorian Multicultural Commission and other bodies. Sputnik is now the longest running program on C31.

‘Sputnik’, meaning ‘fellow-traveller’ or ‘spouse’ in Russian was an obvious choice for the program. The successful launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957 was also a tremendous source of national pride back in the USSR as it symbolised victory in the space race.

Sputnik and the Vaismans have received a number of awards for their work – a Government of Victoria Award for Excellence in Multicultural Affairs in 2008 to the program; individual Government of Victoria Awards for Excellence in Multicultural Affairs to Gregory in 2009 and Anna in 2010; and in 2019 the Antenna Award to Sputnik for the ‘Best Culturally and/or Linguistically Diverse Program’.

For the past 27 years Sputnik TV has been on a mission to educate the Russian-speaking community about life in Australia. Link?

“We’ve regularly cover events such as Anzac Day, Sorry Day, and the Port Phillip Australia Day Mourning events at sunrise. Highlights have been the Olympic Torch Relay, the Commonwealth Games and filming the Queen as she arrived by tram at Government House. We also managed to film Bill Clinton at an international business forum,” Gregory said.

“We’ve also succeeded in our other mission – to celebrate art and culture, something hugely important to our community – and to share that love with the broader Australian community. For 22 years we’ve broadcast the Australian Dance Championships and for more than fifteen years we’ve covered the NGV Winter Masterpieces Exhibitions.

“Sputnik also organised a film festival dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the end of World War 11. We’ve managed to do all this thanks to a team of keen volunteers and modest amounts of funding from local and state governments.”

Gregory’s family loves it here in Australia.

“It’s wonderful to be part of a multicultural society that works. What we really miss is the music but we’re doing our best to make up for that by producing concerts for everyone to enjoy,” he said. “We love music and art – we are happy to participate in community life, in community television, and to live in this country which has been so hospitable. We feel the need to give back, by volunteering our service with Sputnik. It has helped us connect with Russian speaking Jews.

The concert will be recorded for broadcast on Sputnik which goes to air for 30 minutes, 4.00pm on Sundays, and is repeated on 4.00pm on Thursdays. One World – Israel Weekly is broadcast under the Sputnik banner on Thursdays at 1pm. The program attracts over 200,000 unique viewers per annum according to OZTAM figures.

The concert scheduled for June 19  will be free for people in Victoria, please book:

Where/When: St Kilda Town Hall, corner Carlisle Street & Brighton Road, St Kilda, Sunday 19 June, 3-6 pm

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