Members of a world-renowned Ukrainian choir which has temporarily escaped the horrors of its war-ravaged country are hoping a UK tour which comes to the Midlands this month will raise funds to help see them and their families through a harsh eastern European winter.
The Boyan Ensemble, who will be performing at Ludlow, Malvern and Hereford, has been visiting the UK each year since 1993, but this year’s tour has special significance because of the civil war that has engulfed their country.
The tour itself was nearly cancelled because of problems in obtaining visas and only came about after a special appeal to the Home Office.
Organiser Margaret Rolle said: “The Ukranian economy is in freefall and the currency is at an all-time low.
“People are finding it hard to buy petrol, are worried about the winter coming and how they are going to heat their homes, what they are going to have to eat in the winter and the future.
“There is still fighting going on and some of them have got family who have fought in the war zone.
“At least one of them is from Crimea and he told me he is now officially a refugee.”
Ms Rolle added: “The dire financial situation in Ukraine and the punishing austerity measures that have been introduced are a huge burden as the singers struggle to provide for their families.
“Restaurants, shops and other businesses have been closing down, and many of the members have lost their supplementary jobs singing in restaurants or working in some other capacity including music teaching, which used to help them get by.
“They need this current tour more than ever and hope for an opportunity to earn some real money at a time when the value of their local currency, the Ukrainian Hryvnia has plummeted to an all-time low.”
Originally only two of the 26-strong choir were granted visas and the rest did not come through until September 26, just two days before their first UK show.
The choir then faced a lengthy journey to make the start of the tour, which kicked-off in Croydon.
Ms Rolle said: “The singers had to borrow money to meet the cost of the £210 per visa, which is an awful lot of money for them and they were all extremely worried they wouldn’t get them.
“I was so relieved to see them and despite their arduous journey they really were magnificent.”
Ms Rolle said the choir, which already has a devoted UK following, was very popular: “First and foremost this is one of the top choirs in the world for this repertoire.
“I have heard of people rearranging their hip operations just so they can see them. The music they make really is beautiful and the sound they produce is awesome.
“The bass sound is especially impressive and people often wonder how they can make such a sound.”
Other than in London, the members of the choir are hosted by devotees in the places they play in order to keep costs down.
This year Ms Rolle said keeping costs to a minimum was more important than ever to enable choir members to return to Ukraine with money made from the tour, or with items on extensive ‘shopping lists’ they come armed with.
“They have always got big shopping lists of what to buy and what to take home,” she said. “I am always amazed how the coach gets home.
“Now, more than ever it is it is important for all of them to save their money to go back home.”
Despite the difficulties Ukraine faces, Ms Rolle said members of the choir remained optimistic about the future.
She said: “One of the things I keep hearing is that it is a chance for a new beginning.
“Every year they make a CD based on the programme they are performing.
“This year it is called Terra Nova, which means new territory. A few years ago it was called Terra Incognito, which they chose to draw attention to the fact people didn’t know the difference between Russia and Ukraine.”
Boyan Ensemble Midland Concerts
* St Lawrence’s Church, Ludlow: October 19. Tickets: 01584 878141 and at www.ludlowassemblyrooms.co.uk .
* Malvern Priory: October 2. Tickets: 01684 568587 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
* St Francis Xavier Church, Broad Street, Hereford: October 22. Tickets from 01432 275063. All the concerts start at 7.30pm