The Yale Symphony Orchestra will go on tour this summer for the first time in four years — this time to destinations in Russia, and will play concerts in Veliky Novgorod, St. Petersburg, Moscow and Yaroslavl.
Unlike singing groups, which tour several times a year, the orchestra faces substantial travel expenses because the group has to pay for flight seats for certain instruments, rent expensive concert halls and arrange accommodations for its 70 touring members, according to YSO President Cindy Xue ’17. Azamat Kumykov GRD ’15, who has sponsored a tour for an a cappella group in the past, is sponsoring the YSO’s Russia trip.
“Without our donor, we definitely would not have been able to tour on our current annual budget,” Xue said. “As we build up our endowment, we continue to seek sponsorships like this that allow us to share our passionate performances, bridging cultural gaps along the way.”
Xue got in contact with the tour’s angel donor last year through a friend who was serving as the president of Yale’s Society of Orpheus and Bacchus, an all-male a cappella group, because Kumykov had previously sponsored one of their tours.
While the sponsorship covers the majority of tour costs, the group also receives additional funding from the Yale College Dean’s Office, YSO alumni and the head of college’s office in some residential colleges. Each touring YSO member pays a heavily subsidized tour fee of $1, 500.
The tour also comes at a crucial time in international politics, given the recent terrorist attack in St. Petersburg and President Donald Trump’s statement on Tuesday that U.S.-Russia relations may be at an “all-time low.”
In light of the growing international tensions, YSO Musical Director Toshiyuki Shimada said he has discussed all concerns with the consulates and embassies of both countries. With advice from the Yale College Dean’s Office, Shimada said all possible steps are being taken to ensure students’ safety.
Shimada added that the tour aims to bridge the growing gap between U.S. and Russia. “We want to play our music for the sake of humanity,” he said.
While on tour, the orchestra will play pieces such as Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and Barber’s Overture to “The School for Scandal.”
Notable performances during the tour include a concert at the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, which has hosted many famous artists and orchestras. The YSO will also be playing in Veliky Novgorod, near the birthplace of famous Russian composer and pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff.
Of the four scheduled concerts, three will feature Boris Berman, a world-renowned pianist and a professor in the practice of piano at the School of Music.
“I have never felt more excited about anything else in my entire life,” said Jacob Sweet ’18, the YSO’s principal clarinetist and publicity officer.
The YSO last toured in 2013, when it went to Brazil.