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City news, 24.08.2004 12:29

Motley Crew of Musicians Seek Harmony in City

let's_make_music St Petersburg Times

By Simone Kozuharov

Staff Writer

Photo by Natasha Danchenkova / FOR SPT

Musicians and singers from England, Belgium, Sweden, America and Canada plan to produce a beautiful and melodious sound when they perform a concert in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

The catch is that they only met last week. This motley crew of musicians from around the globe came to St. Petersburg through Let's Make Music, an organization based in Eastborn, England.

Let's Make Music provides "the opportunity for instrumentalists to come from anywhere to make up an orchestra for a weekend or a week to play music," said Peter Mayes, founder and director of the organization.

"Music being the most international [language] of all - it's an opportunity for people to travel and make friends from other countries," he said Monday in an interview.

Mayes founded the group in 1992 and for 10 years people gathered in his hometown to meet and play together.

Two years ago, Mayes decided to take the organization on the road and set his sights on St. Petersburg after having passed through the city on his way to Yakutsk, where he taught English.

The group has been rehearsing for about 3 1/2 hours in the morning and spending the afternoons touring the city. The music they play ranges from pieces by Rimsky-Korsakov to Glinka and is not the usual fare of the amateur orchestras they play in at home, Mayes said.

"I wanted to play music that I hadn't before played in the local orchestra and to play with high-standard musicians," he said.

Let's Make Music works with well-established city talents, who lead rehearsals and conduct the orchestra and choir.

Alim Shakhmametev, a conductor with the Rimsky Korsakov Opera Theater and a professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, conducts the orchestra. The choir is led by Yulia Khutoretskaya, also a conservatory professor and the conductor of the Youth Chamber Choir of St. Petersburg.

"They're very flexible, musical [and] understanding," Khutoretskaya said of the international players. "Its interesting for them to get acquainted with new music."

This is the first time Mayes has organized a choir to participate in the trip, which costs each member about $545, not including airfare. There are about 50 choir members and 18 orchestra members.

The only hitch was getting the six string instruments through customs. It took about 30 minutes for each instrument to be checked, stamped and approved for entry into the country. Mayes said he would like to bring more instruments next time, but rigorous customs regulations would make that nearly impossible.

"If I brought 48 instruments, it would take 24 hours to get them through customs," Mayes said, "which is not very good for tourism in St. Petersburg."

Despite this, "people were very keen to come for the chance to see St. Petersburg," said Nicola Williams, the choir coordinator.

One of those people is Peter Warner, an artist from Kent, England. Warner had first visited the city in 1987 during the 70th anniversary of the October Revolution while on another musically themed journey.

"One of the attractive things about this trip is coming back to St. Petersburg, which is a fabulous city," he said.

Let's Make Music's choir and orchestra will perform at the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral at 22-24 Nevsky Prospekt Tuesday at 3 p.m. The free concert will last about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

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