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<<  -- 3 --  Howard Smith    TO RUSSIA WITH LOVE


Russian Babushki (grandmothers) turned out with words of encouragement. 'They'd say "now dear you go home and have a good meal tonight and a good sleep and then you'll be strong again for tomorrow".' Lygia smiles at the memory. 'When I explained that I wasn't going home, but sleeping in the street and only having (Tipperary) water they were horrified.'

'I began a book of signatures and comments from people and by the middle of the night a group of punks turned up (very unusual for Moscow in those days) and entertained me with their songs accompanied by guitars. When they heard the story they wrote indignantly in the book Nationalist goats'.

After fifty hours two men in suits came from the Ministry of Culture. They invited Lygia for coffee. 'No coffee until I get my concert back', she replied. By this time news of the scandal had spread through the city. One journalist had surreptitiously managed to record the Director of the hall uttering all sorts of false and racist things about foreigners.

Nonethelesss Lygia finally achieved what she'd intended ... the reactionary 'old guard' sat down with her and beat out an agreement. They set an alternative date; a Saturday afternoon in May; traditionally the time when people have left for summer cottages out of Moscow. After the flood of publicity Lygia decided to accept. Journalists rallied and the conductor demanded posters everywhere; throughout the Conservatory and even on the other side of the street.

Ensemble XXI Moscow at the 'Tchaikovsky' Conservatory
Ensemble XXI Moscow at the 'Tchaikovsky' Conservatory

The Conservatory heads predicted no one would turn up and only a few programmes would be required. But predictably they were wrong. The concert was a sell-out. Lygia recalls the most memorable sight as all the punks strode in with their extraordinary hairstyles, rings, metal haberdashery and hobnailed boots. 'To the astonishment of regular Moscow concertgoers they sat up front cheering Ensemble XXI Moscow on.'

But amidst the euphoria Lygia had made one fundamental error. The agreement contained no clause to say her orchestra could play in the hall again. 'My mother would have said; "see you had an empty stomach and your brains weren't working"' Lygia muses as she looks back. As soon as the hall closed its doors after the concert, despite such an overwhelming success, those doors remained barred to Ensemble XXI Moscow until this September.

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Copyright © 1 November 2002 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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