Concert Tour to Eastern Europe - April 26 - May 15

- Photos

- Pictures with amusing captions

- Bruce's quicktime tour movie (2 thumbs up! Way up!)

-Video sent from Tirgu Sesquiesc (really excellent video!)

- Tour Notes

One night in Odessa, I was sitting in a restaurantwhen a small group of singers came in. During a very pleasant conversation, one of them asked me: “Why do you go through all this hassle, year after year, with all the crises which come up in a concert tour”? I thought about it for a while and responded by asking them to remember how they felt during and after the previous night’s concert. After a couple of minutes, they nodded in understanding, remembering the incredible audience reaction.

On our Romanian, Ukrainian and Russian tour, this sort of experience was commonplace. Thanks to the superb organization of our dear Romanian friend (and former Chamber Singer) Mihaly Peter, we sang to over 2,000 people in six of the glorious cathedrals of Transylvania, and the audience response was the same as in Odessa. The wondrous acoustics of St. Alexander’s Cathedral in Kiev, the concert hall of Shchekino, Russia, and the Glinka Museum in Moscow held all the same joys. We performed 12 concerts, receiving a standing ovation for every one of them.
I don’t want to minimize the experience of seeing the glories of the world and mingling with its myriad of people and cultures. As in China in 2005, we headlined an international festival of music in Oradea. We had the opportunity of experiencing the languages, food, folk design, architecture and other cultural uniquenesses of the Hungarians, the Transylvanian Hungarians, the Romanians, the Ukrainians and the Russians. More than on any previous tour, these aspects were constantly in evidence. The absence of virtually everything western (from Starbucks to superhighways) made these distinctions much more evident, from the highly ornate 18th century buildings of the mercantile city of Oradea to the exciting and vibrant port city of Odessa and the overwhelming grandeur of Kiev and the unparalleled “eye candy” which is St. Basil’s in Red Square. Mother Nature also presented us with treats ranging from the exquisite beauty of the Transylvanian alps to the pastoral retreat of our two days at Leo Tolstoy’s Yasnaya Polyana.

I have a clear approach-avoidance when writing about these tours, especially whether or not to tell about the crises encountered - this trip had more than most. However, I have come to realize that the trials and tribulations are very much a part of the experience and certainly the excitement of the tour. Even before the trip started, there were times when the its future was very much in doubt. The original focus for the tour came from an invitation for a three day visit to the University of Voronezh in southern Russia. We had been promised the required visa application documentation from Voronezh for early January. After many weeks of waiting and further assurances, on March 29 I had to make a decision to cancel our visit to Voronezh and make last minute arrangements for extra days in Odessa, Kiev and Yasnaya Polyana to take its place. During this same period, we lost contact for many weeks at a time with our Romanian tour organizer who we believed was very ill, and for several weeks were not able to make contact with our Budapest bus company (our sole transportation between April 26 and May 15.)
During the tour a hosting was cancelled in Toplitsa and on one day’s notice was picked up by the next host in Ditrau. A sixteen hour trip from Sfintu Gheorghe to Odessa was marred by impossibly poor roads while crossing Moldavia and a series of horrendous incidents at the border of Trans-Listria (an autonomous republic of Moldavia) and Ukraine. This included extortion: a payment of $500 was demanded (otherwise we would be held at the border for 6-8 hours), and there was an incident of harassment which is currently being investigated by the Dept. of External Affairs in Ottawa. One night in Kiev, one of our tenors was beaten and robbed. In Moscow, our concert at the Glinka Museum was attended by 7 local people (other than several relatives of one of our singers), due to what was basically a scam to take a substantial amount of money and do virtually no publicity. We paid a small percentage of the cost and left, after a high-energy final tour performance.

The night before my conversation with the singers in Odessa, they had set the Recital Hall of the Odessa Academy of Music “on fire”, resulting in a shouting audience erupting with applause, (both western style and eastern “rhythmic” clapping) and 3 encores. That was their experience.  Mine was the intense joy of watching their faces as they enjoyed what 20 generations of Chamber Singers had before them - the true life experience which is a concert tour. To be sure, I can drag them around the world to see all the “wonders” foreign cities have to offer, but it is this moment that makes it all worthwhile and trumps any crisis, no matter how egregious.
Would I do it again?......in a heartbeat! Bruce