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A Saint Petersburg Debut!

An afternoon personal guided-excursion of the city to calm the nerves and help settle the mind from yesterday's day of masterclasses; a hearty Russian soup and dumplings to shake off Saint Petersburg’s chilling wind; and a rehearsal followed by Russian pastries and tangy green apples to keep energy levels up – it can only mean one thing...

In a few hours Guildhall School musicians Alexandria, Emelia, Ugne, Jonathan and Liam would be making their Russian #debut!

R to L: Jonathan, Ugne, Alexandria, Emelia and Liam invited Iain Burnside to be their guest on private (unfortunately whirlwind!) pre-concert sight-seeing excursion of Saint Petersburg.


At the back of the Alexandrisky Theatre (affectionately called the ‘Alexandriyka’) stands one of the most historic and stunningly symmetrical streets of Saint Petersburg. Formerly known as Theatre Street, it was renamed after its architect to Ulitsa Zodchego Rossi. There a grand building houses the State Saint Petersburg Museum of Theatre and Music.

The grand State Museum of Theatre and Music in Saint Petersburg as the concert draws near

It is filled from basement to the rafters with mementos of Russia’s incredibly rich cultural life – the ballets, plays operas, concerts, puppet shows, exhibitions, and the huge names behind them – it also houses two concert halls. The Small Hall on the third floor, overlooking the heart of Saint Petersburg’s theatre district, has a long tradition as a thriving aristocratic music salon where Piotr Tchaikovsky frequently performed. It was there, with the help of that same piano, that Alexandria, Emelia, Ugne, Jonathan and Liam would be making their own contribution to history.

For me it was the moment in which all those hours of coaching and artistic discussions would finally come together. Saint Petersburg would hear Russian song inspired by British texts, performed by British musicians with the help of coaching from Russian musicians, in one of its most culturally cosmopolitan streets at the heart of the city.

Introducing, and adopting the Russian tradition of 'guiding' the concert (in two languages, no less!) for the local and international audience, I was touched by the genuine warmth and enthusiasm that the event conjured up from those present. Russian audiences are notoriously spoilt and often set in their expectations.

Dealing with the rather unusual placement of the piano in relation to the stage, it is a true testament to the Guildhall School students' professionalism and preparation that their tightly bonded ensemble between singer and pianist never faltered. They commanded the room like seasoned professions and received a rapturous applause for it!

L to R: Emelia, Ugne, Jonathan, Liam and Alexandria with chocolate roses receiving a standing ovation after they charmed Saint Petersburg with their professionalism and artistry.

Watch this space for video footage of their performance!


I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart Professor Sir Barry Ife and Dr Trudi Darby for making this moment happen. You have not just opened up the door into the rich world Russian song to these astonishingly talented musicians, but in the process you have allowed them to find out and nurture something exceedingly special about themselves as artists. That is a gift that is truly priceless.

@BritishCouncil @GuildhallSchool @BarryIfe


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