"The Russian Club in Shanghai" heartily congratulates the Orchestra of Oleg Lundstrem with their 70 Anniversary and wishes all the musicians and namely Oleg Leonidivich future artistic success, longevity, health and prosperity!
We, Russian Shanghai citizens, with a special passion love all the musicians of the Lundstrem-orchestra, knowing them as a creative group, having begun their triumphant historic way in far-distant and mysterious China. 70 years ago in China, thanks to the enthusiasm of a group of the passionate Haerbin students, carried away by jazz, the youngest of them being 16 years old, made up a jazz-orchestra. Thanks to the platters of the great Duke Ellington Oleg Lundstrem "fell ill" with jazz for the rest of his life. He himself wrote several arrangements of the popular pieces, showed them to his brother and friends. Soon came the decision to organize a youth Big Band. Their first performance was a great success!
At about the same time a rhyme appeared:
Oleg a Igor, both you'd like,
The latter nicely rode his bike.
Lat, Min, and Victor with his brother,
And also Alex and some others
Were fond of Ellington, Armstrong
The time has passed and they have grown
Till their studies come to end
The students formed their own jazz-band.
The stuff of the orchestra was made up according to the instruments, typical to the usual jazz-band: three saxophones (A. Onopyuk [Onan], Vl. Serebryakov [brother Vova], I. Lundstrem), two trumpets (Vit. Serebryakov [Vityukha], A . Kotyakov [Alyosha], trombone (A. Minenkov [Min] and rhythm-group (A. Gravis [Lat] - double-bass, banjo, I. Umanets - the percussions and O. Lundstrem - piano). They were only nine then.
Having begun to perform as an unprofessional jazz-fans, the guys did not know at that time, what may come of this idea. As every orchestra needs a leader, there were not many ideas and arguments: everybody agreed to give all the power and authority to Oleg Lundstrem, as the most passionate and carried away , the more hat he was able to inspire others. The intuition prompted the young musicians that Oleg was the leader, the personality, the director and at the same time the expert of all the latest novices of the foreign repertoire. Igor Lundstrem was the generator of the ideas and the spirit of the orchestra. Alyosha Kotyakov was a remarkable musician, a delicate and intelligent person, at the same time he had delicate music style and was a passionate sportsman. Vit. Serebryakov was not only a good performer, but also a writer and a poet. A. Gravis, whose father was a latvian, combined Russian character, Baltic appearance, Oriental temperament, together with surprising faithfulness and devotedness to the orchestra. Each of the fellows has his own temperament and habits, their own ideas of life; one thing was common between them - love to music and to the new and amazing sounding of the jazz, to the excellent rhythm, to the new and fresh approach.
Yes, at that time jazz made great steps all through the country, and it was a special kind of art just to find the necessary note, the necessary arrangement, which could inspire the audience, the public with the unusual music style, the talent to be unique, to preserve the artistic "face". In China it was always very important not to loose one's face. To preserve one's dignity and respect within very different circumstances - is a great art.
One more Chinese peculiarity is a ability to reproduce the exact copies of the things or to copy the skill of the creators - an artist, an musician or an actor. Century after century the wise Chinese copied the heritage of their theatre, music, and dances. But the delicate copy is still just a mechanic copy. Without creative research and novelties the movement forward is impossible. But what happened when Jazz had come to China? Hundreds of music groups (both Russian and Chinese) with scrupulous exactness tried to reproduce the jazz compositions of the American law-givers of fashion, every restaurant and ball-room had its own orchestra. Moreover in Shanghai of 1930-s there was even a surplus of musicians.
Obviously, the stage of imitation of the "giants" of jazz touched even the Haierbin boys. But what differed them, was not just their strive for playing jazz, and not only the novices of the season, but also their enormous ability to work hard, their creative approach and original arrangements, which they were not afraid to make because of their young fearlessness. We, Russian Shanghai citizens, are proud that the compositions of the Lundstrem-orchestra are not forgotten in Shanghai even now: in one of the most luxurious restaurants of the city (the restaurant of the "Peace-hotel", former "Kathey-hotel") even at present the old Jazz-band plays, where there still are former pupils of Oleg Lundstrem. They perform the compositions which had been popular in Shanghai in the middle of 1930s.
Of course, the triumphant conquest of Shanghai by the orchestra could not happen quickly. It was not an easy period in the life of the fellows. In that period the orchestra passed through the temporary disintegration, bitter indigence and necessity to survive one by one. But the idea did not die, and as soon as it was possible the orchestra again (like the bird Phoenix) was able to concentrate and begin to work with new doubled enthusiasm. There was one thing which united them all: they were COllaborators. And one more tradition did the boys inherit in China. The country, which had passed through numerous wars, tragedies, losses and difficulties each time survived thanks to the preserving traditional tenor of life, namely thanks to the worship of Family, as a supreme value of human existence. The fact that the musicians referred to their orchestra as to the family, where the highest moments of happiness as well as bitter losses helped to preserve the orchestra for dozens and dozens of years. The orchestra carried this wonderful tradition through all its creative life till present time.
What helps the family to live a long happy life? Not only the sense of respect to each other and faithfulness to the common idea, though it is very important. Not only the links and succession of the generations, when in the course of time the natural change of the orchestra's stuff and youth is actively involved into the family's life, sharing the whole responsibility and taking care of the weak. For instance, in China the main thing is to respect the predecessors, the head of the family and the fixed family traditions. Speaking about the orchestra it is impossible to underestimate the role and the influence the personality of Oleg Lundstrem, we ask for apology from his oldest collaborating musicians. As the orchestra musicians and members of their families say, Oleg Leonidovich has always been a leader and was responsible for all spheres of the orchestra's life. The real charisma of the leader comes out not when he gives the orders and they are fulfilled. According to the witnesses of the orchestra's musicians many people helped him, though he never asked them for help. But if only he ever asked for something, the answer "No" was impossible. .
Being Russian Shanghai citizens we would like to mark with deep understanding and pride, the way the musicians had stoically passed through the removal to the USSR and the first years of adaptation to the native land. It is interesting to know that the majority of the musicians had never been in the USSR before or had left the country when they were little children. One could hardly imagine the prosperous Shanghai, incredible popularity of the Lundstrem orchestra with the American soldiers (American fleet had liberated Shanghai in 1945 from the Japanese army); all the Shanghai restaurants, ball-rooms, amusements centres were filled with the rich and generous foreign officers; the food-stores openly sold the so-called "trophy" American products, the atmosphere was full with enthusiasm of freedom, because the war was over, because everything would change and would be only good! The fellows had left Shanghai in bright spirits. They should leave for their Motherland to revitalize the ruined country. Everybody had the sensation of participation to some great affairs, as "We, our people were the Winners " . Some musicians of the orchestra (namely Igor Lundstrem and Vitaly Serebryakov) dealt with the preparation of the documents for those Soviet citizens who were going to be repatriated. The orchestra numbered then 19 people. The orchestra prepared a new repertoire consisting of the arranged in jazz style Soviet songs and compositions. The orchestra played free for the returning from abroad Soviet citizens. At the beginning of October 1947 the ship called "Gogol" took the repatriates together with the Lundstrem orchestra musicians and their families away…
"When "Gogol" entered the territorial waters of the USSR, many of the crew-members, who had been wearing civil clothes up to the moment, changed for NKVD (former KGB) uniform and put the service caps with blue top. To our great regret the tone of the conversation changed as well. It gave the effect of a cold shower, but the general joy of returning home was not ruined. The possibility to move to any foreign country, as Oleg Lundstrem said, was not even kept in mind. "It was quite clear for us: one should live in his own country and revitalize it from ruins. We left China, where the market system had dictated its own conditions: 'if one thing can not be sold now, we will offer something else'. That's why we were not scared of anything. Looking at my mother, who without knowing Chinese bargained at the market very well, I understood that the main problem did not lie in the field of language barriers or any other circumstances, but in the fact whether people do want to communicate or they do not. We learned this in China far before "Perestroika" and Gorvachov. If you wish, were ready to face difficulties better than anybody else. The only thing we were not ready for was the seriousness of the repression machine and to the struggle with cosmopolitanism. But we were lucky. But we were very young and self-conscious!"
When the orchestra had played several concerts for our guardians in the Japanese concentration camps, the orchestra gained popularity and respect in the circles of the servicemen, responsible for the distribution of the repatriants. "I was bold enough - says O. Lundstrem, - and began asking to find us a city with a Conservatoire of music. Among all the cities available for the repatriants the Conservatoires were only in Kazan and Sverdlovsk. I chose the most Western city, closer to the centre - Kazan".
Kotyakova told us about the amazing contrasts of the native land: "We traveled in a vehicle which had been used to carry coal before. Our hair got frozen to the floor at night, and we4 had to cut them. We traveled together with many of others, together with us there were Igor and Oleg with their mother, Alyosha and I. There was another family with us with little baby which, I remember it was all covered with coal. It was difficult to get food. Luckily we were given food in Nakhodka - a lot of herring, which we changed for bread on our way. We had neither money (we were not permitted to take them from Shanghai) nor goods with us (we didn't have much)".
Answering the question, if the Soviet people were alien towards the repatriants from China, she was reserved in her answer: "Alien? It never occurred. The reason was that our small luggage, which we managed to bring with us, has disappeared. I can't say now was it an occasion or not, but we were told to put our luggage into the room in the basement, which was submerged the next day As V. Aksyonov said, the arrival of the Lundstrem orchestra produced an amazing impression: the musicians were all in white coats, and looked very smart". "Yes, agrees Irene Kotyakova, by the comparison with the local population we differed very much by our clothes. I remember I had a winter coat, made of an American blanket, I didn't know why, but it was consideded almost bourgeois… Many of us were referred to as foreigners. If only they would know how miserable we were sometimes in Shanghai, how much in need we were in Kazan at first. But we never had any way out. We never even thought about it. The wife of Gravis, for instance, used to say: I'll follow you even if you move to Siberia, or anywhere."
And again the years came, when the orchestra was obliged to disintegrate temporarily. Though the musicians had additional work how and where they could, they agreed not to leave the orchestra, especially to those, who had come from China. The Kotyakovs, for example, were obliged to live in different cities (Alex - in Kazan, later - in Moscow, and Irene had lived in Magnitogorsk for 10 years). Oleg Lundstrem was the Music-director of the Kazan Drama theatre.
The three hieroglyphs, used in the writing of the name Lundstrem - "Long Shi Deng" - have the meaning "Wakening Dragon". Contrary to the Russian legends, the mythical Chinese dragon is a positive personage, which brings fortune, happiness, prosperity and wealth. It is surprising that thanks to the personality of Oleg Leonidovich the orchestra has passed through all the regimes and preserved its "face". Lundstrem succeeded to be what he has always been. After their arrival to the USSR Oleg Lundstrem didn't join the Communist Party, he tried to stay "beyond the politics". He and his musical family didn't need to fit to anybody; in order to get good engagement he didn't have to drink with anybody just to establish necessary business relations for his further carrier. It is his charisma.
Only in 1956 did the musicians manage to gather together again. Beginning with this year, namely with the International Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow their triumphant march through the cities of the USSR and abroad began. Thanks to the enormous hardworking abilities and constant concert tours, the orchestra was able to move to Moscow, to get the status of the State Jazz orchestra. The stuff of the orchestra widened as well as the glory and the responsibility for what is done by the talented people. During these years many famous musicians and performers have worked in the orchestra. The list of their names will take many pages. Former musicians and performers who had left the orchestra for various reasons often recall the years of their collaboration and the continuous leader of the orchestra with great warmth and pleasure.
"Its a great element - jazz orchestra, Big Band. There is both discipline and democracy; besides there always is a place for solo works and the opportunity to express oneself as a arranger and a composer. The orchestra is like a living organism: every worker is an individuality, beginning with the conductor and finishing with the stage-hand", they say.
The orchestra has passed through different times: stagnation, perestroika, powerlessness, reforms and economic crisis. It survived in the turns of economic curves. Significant role in this connection was played by the supporters and the pupils of Oleg Leonidovich, who percept the orchestra as a unity and community of the poles and opponents, as a family of collaborators and those, who share the same views. It is worth mentioning that Lundstrem could always surround himself with correct people, necessary to the orchestra. It seems to be another "principle of a Dragon"?
Being Russian Shanghai citizens, we would like to mention the fact that even today the orchestra supports the high level of Russian culture and our countrymen abroad. The proofs to that are the triumphant tours of the orchestra abroad, the October 2003 the tours of Lundstrem orchestra in Peking and Shanghai in particular. It is always pleasant enormous lines of the people of different ages and interests, who were willing to get to the concert. The orchestra gets the responses full of excitement from the spectators and experts of the genre, everybody, who are united by the strife to touch the thesaurus of the Russian performing art.
In short, long live the Orchestra for many years!
Author: L. P. Chernikova, chief teacher of the Chair of New and Newest History of the Bashkirian State University (the city of Ufa), the probationer of the East-China Pedagogic University (Shanghai), candidate of History.