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International Tours

Why Musicians Can Freely Go Where Missionaries Can’t

In Soviet times, Ukrainians were the musical heroes. Choirs and orchestras toured across the Soviet Union presenting concerts in the Opera Houses and Philharmonia Halls and were treated as celebrities. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the state choirs and orchestras who wanted to tour began going to the West, especially to Europe, where they could make money. The Ukrainian musicians could no longer afford to travel to the former Soviet republics.

When Roger McMurrin and the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra and Chorus began making plans to go to Middle Russia in 2006, they were welcomed with open arms. The Ukrainians were coming back! In April of 2006, they took Handel’s Messiah in the Russian language to the area of Russia near the Ural Mountains. This mostly Moslem region, with seven cities of more than 1,000,000 people hosted 13 concerts in 14 days.

The following year, the KSOC traveled to the “Stans”: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. They were welcomed by the ministers of culture, conservatory directors, and ambassadors. The people were expecting something great, and they were not disappointed. The Ukrainian musicians did ten concerts in two weeks in the cities of Tashkent, Samarkand, Bishkek, and Almati. They gave not only concerts, but they shared musical experiences with students at the conservatory, and performed in orphanages

At the concert in Bishkek, a musician named Nur was in the audience. He was the concertmaster and manager of the Bishkek Chamber Orchestra. He loved the music, and as a result, he invited Roger to guest conduct his orchestra in October 2009 in a concert of Haydn, Mendelssohn, and Handel. Even though Roger had recently had neck surgery, he did the concert, and the audience was thrilled. Nur invited him back in December to bring a group of singers from the KSOC and do the first Christmas Concert in Bishkek. The event was so successful that the concert was repeated in 2010, and now in 2011, we look forward to presenting Handel’s Messiah with Kyrgyz singers, trained by Roger, with Ukrainian soloists.

We have an amazing opportunity to impact the lives of musicians and those in attendance of our concerts in these formerly Soviet countries. Most of the cities that we have given concerts in are predominantly of the Moslem religion and do not welcome missionaries, especially Americans. With our musicians we have an entry into these areas and are able to share the Gospel through the rich spiritual texts of the sacred music which we have translated into the language of the people. It is our prayer to continue to translate sacred masterworks, and hymnals, and answer invitations to bring our musicians proclaiming the Gospel through the music they perform.