Following our performances in Moscow in May 2017 and Krasnodar & Crimea in August 2018, an ensemble from Symphonic Brass Wales were delighted to return to both Crimea & Moscow in May 2019.
With our previous visit to Crimea following on from those by performing groups from both Italy & New Zealand in March 2018, and coinciding with performances by the New Orleans Rebirth Brass Band from the USA at the Koktebel Jazz Festival during the same period as our own visit in August 2018, our May 2019 visit coincided with an international conference of historians from Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom at the famed Livadia Palace (site of the Yalta Conference between Churchill, Roosevelt & Stalin in 1945) and performances by international soloists of the Russian State Ballet hailing from Azerbaijan, Japan, Russia, Spain and the United States of America.
The full schedule of our visit, plus a series of images, videos and news reports can be found below.
Once again our visits to both Moscow and Crimea were tremendous. We enjoyed a fantastic welcome in each of the regions and cities that we visited, and our thanks go out to all our incredible audiences, hosts and all the wonderful people we met during our visit - Diolch yn fawr iawn / большое спасибо.
We look to visiting Moscow and Crimea again soon.
May 1st Travel from Wales to London, then onwards to Moscow and Simferopol Transfer from Simferopol to Yalta Check in at the Palmyra Palace Hotel, Kurpaty
May 2nd Excursion & performance at the Vorontsov Palace, Alupka Welcome by the Director of the Vorontsov Palace Youth education project filming session Exhibition from the Balaklava Museum Public Performance
May 3rd Excursion & performance at Balaklava Tour of the Balaklava Battlefield Last Post performance at the British Army Balaklava Memorial Visit to the Balaklava Museum Performance on the Balaklava Waterfront Visit to the Church of Christ's Resurrection, Foros Attend performance by international soloists of the the Russian State Ballet at Simeiz
May 4th Excursion & performance at Massandra Palace Performance in the Palace Grounds Tour of the Massandra Palace Visit to the Massandra Winery Television feature on NTV national television
May 5th Conference, Performance & Excursion at the Livadia Palace Conference: The Outcomes and Impact of the Yalta Conference, 1945 Performance in the Imperial Dining Rooms Tour of the Livadia Palace and performance by Blagovest Male Chorus
May 6th Travel to Simferopol and on to Moscow Transfer and check in to the Crown Plaza World Trade Centre Hotel
May 7th Victory Day Performance & Tour of Gokhran, State Administration for the Formation of the State Fund of Precious Metals and Precious Stones of the Russian Federation Evening Meal at Kazbek Georgian Restaurant, overlooking the Moscow River
May 8th Visit to the Moscow Metro Visit to the Cathedral of Christ Our Saviour Visit to Moscow State University & Gorky Park Evening Reception with the Immortal Regiment Organising Committee, Crowne Plaza World Trade Centre Hotel
May 9th Victory Day The Immortal Regiment Parade Evening Meal with the Immortal Regiment Organising Committee, Crowne Plaza World Trade Centre Hotel Victory Day Fireworks Display
May 10th Moscow Boat Tour Lunch at Arbat Street Evening Meal at Kazbek Georgian Restaurant
May 11th Return to Wales
Tour Performances & Visits
May 1 - Travel Day & Arrival at the Palmyra Palace Hotel, Kurpaty
Located in Kurpaty, the Palmyra Palace Resort & Spa stands in a park on the Crimean coast, just 6.2 miles from Yalta.
Offering an exclusive spa with health care facilities, a private pebble beach, the resort features elegant air-conditioned rooms and suites with free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TV and minibar. Bathrooms come with free toiletries.
The Palmira Palace Spa features a water park, indoor and two seasonal outdoor pools with sea water, a SPA centre, and modern gym. Cosmetic services, massages, and physiotherapy treatments can be booked there. There are also Russian steam bath, infrared sauna, hammam and Japanese barrels at the spa centre.
Daily buffet breakfasts and varied meal options are served in the Palmira resort’s restaurant with sun terrace. Guests can also enjoy a drink at the rooftop restaurant. There are shops on site of the resort and a tour desk is available to guests. Younger guests can spend their time at children's club Limpopo on site, or in the children's room near the hotel. There are live music and entertainment programmes with animators for adults and children at the property during the summer. Shuttles to Yalta Airport are available on request.
We had a wonderful stay at this excellent, beautifully located resort
May 2 - The Vorontsov Palace
The Vorontsov Palace is an historic palace situated at the foot of the Crimean Mountains, and specifically Mount Ai-Petri, near the town of Alupka. The palace is one of the oldest and largest palaces in Crimea, and one of the most popular tourist attractions on the southern coast. Built in the English Renaissance revival style by British architect Edward Blore and his assistant William Hunt, the palace is a hybrid of several architectural styles, including elements of Scottish Baronial, Mughal and Gothic Revival architecture. Blore himself had designed many buildings in the United Kingdom, and is particularly well known for completing the design of Buckingham Palace.
From 11 to 14 February 1945, when the Yalta Conference took place in the neighbouring Livadia Palace, Sir Winston Churchill and the British delegation were given residence within the Vorontsov Palace. The palace's English-inspired architectural style gained praise from Churchill and he was so taken by the garden's Medici lions that he later asked Joseph Stalin if he could take one of them home. Stalin declined the request, but asked why. Sir Winston stated the sleeping lion looked like a portrait of himself, just without his beloved cigar.
Our ensemble performed twice at the Vorontsov Palace on our previous visit in August 2018, firstly in a short parade and performance in front of the palace itself, following a guided tour of the 40 hectares (99 acres) of gardens, arranged by the famed German landscape gardener Carolus Keebach. On our second visit, we then received a guided tour of the Palace itself and undertook a formal evening performance in the Palace Courtyard at which SBW MD Craig Roberts was awarded the Talent & Vocation Medal as a Worldwide Charitable Alliance Peacemaker by the International Coordination Council for the Development and Promotion of the Ideas of Peace.
On this visit, our ensemble performed together with musicians from the Crimean State Philharmonic Orchestra once again in the wonderful Palace courtyard, facing Mount Ai-Petri, as well as undertaking some filming for a children's film for young visitors to the palace. Following the performance, SBW MD Craig Roberts was inducted in the society of the Friends of the Vorontsov Palace, members of which include Palace Director Alexander Balinckenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
We look forward to maintaining our creative partnership with the Vorontsov Palace and returning to perform at this magnificent venue, with such strong British historic connections, again soon.
May 3 - Balaklava
During the Middle Ages, Balaklava was controlled by the Byzantine Empire and then by the Genoese who conquered it in 1365. The ruins of a Genoese fortress positioned high on a clifftop above the entrance to the Balaklava Inlet are an iconic landmark and a popular tourist attraction. The Byzantines called the town Yamboli and the Genoese named it Cembalo. In 1475 however, Cembalo City was conquered by Turks and they renamed it Balyk-Yuva (Fish's Nest) which subsequently became "Balaklava" as its known today.
Balaklava is perhaps most well known for the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War (1853 to 1856) and the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade, where a British cavalry charge, due to a misunderstanding, were sent up a valley strongly held on three sides by Russian forces. Approximately 250 men were killed or wounded, and over 400 horses lost, in the charge, which effectively reduced the size of the mounted brigade by two thirds and destroyed some of the finest light cavalry in the world to no military purpose. The British poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson immortalised the battle in verse in his famous Charge of the Light Brigade.
On our previous visit, we visited the field of the battle, and also both the Russian and British Memorials, where two of our musicians performed the Last Post and Reveille at sunset there last August. On this visit, the British memorial was our first port of call. Accessible only by crossing train tracks, we were privileged to once again perform the Last Post & Reveille for the Fallen in the 165th anniversary year of the Battle. The performance at the British Memorial was filmed and broadcast nationally across Russia by NTV. SBW are thankful to our Russian hosts and local authorities for enabling us to visit the Memorial and Balaklava once again.
On our previous visit to Balaklava we undertook a boat trip out into the harbour. Our pilot guides were incredibly knowledgeable and outlined the history of the harbour from its origins through the Genoan period and into modern day. During the Second World War, Balaklava was the southernmost point in the Soviet-German lines and one of its functions during this time was as an underground, formerly classified submarine base, which remained operational until 1993. The base is said to be virtually indestructible and is designed to survive a direct atomic impact. During this period, Balaklava was one of the most secret residential areas in the Soviet Union and the region was not featured on any maps. At one time, almost the entire population of Balaklava worked at the base and even family members could not visit the town without good reason and proper identification. The base remained operational after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 until 1993 when the decommissioning process started, which saw the removal of the warheads and low-yield torpedoes. In 1996, the last Russian submarine left the base, since which time it has been open to the public as the Naval museum complex Balaklava.
On this visit, we were privileged to visit the Balaklava Museum and to also perform on the busy Balaklava Waterfront. It was fascinating to learn of the Welsh connections to the battle and were able to explore these with the Curator of the Museum, and to inform them of the Balaklava connection to Welsh contemporary of Florence Nightingale, Betsi Cadwaladr, further information on whom we will be providing to the museum for exhibit.
We look forward to returning to Balaklava soon and exploring both the connection to Betsi in her 230th anniversary year, and the 165th anniversary year of the Battle.
May 3 - Foros & Simeiz
Foros is the southernmost resort in Crimea. Founded and named by medieval Greek merchants, it was rediscovered in the late 19th century by Alexander Kuznetsov, a Russian "tea king" who had his palace built on the sea shore. It was Kuznetsov who commissioned the town's main landmark, the Resurrection Church, the ornate five-domed architectural extravaganza is sited on a 400-metre cliff overlooking Foros which we were fortunate to be able to visit.
Foros in also noted for its connection to the end of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Soviet leaders had several state dachas built near Foros. One of these came to international attention during the 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt, when the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had been vacationing in Foros at the time of the coup. His luxury dacha was fired upon a couple of times during the capture, after which Gorbachev was placed under house arrest there.
Following our visit to Foros we were delighted to attend a performance at Simeiz by our good friends of the Russian State Ballet. The performance saw featured soloists from Azerbaijan, Japan, Russia, Spain & the USA perform to a capacity audience, including a large contingent of young students of local ballet schools.
May 4 - Massandra Palace & Winery
The Massandra Palace is a Châteauesque villa of Emperor Alexander III of Russia in Massandra, on the south coast of Crimea. Construction of the building started in 1881 and was funded by the son of Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov, Semyon Mikhailovich who had recently returned from the 1877-78 Russo-Turkish War. The construction of the palace that was initially designed by French architect Étienne Bouchard in the Louis XIII style, was suspended after the death of Prince Semyon Mikhailovich Vorontsov. In 1889 the unfinished palace was bought by the Russian Imperial Domains Agency for Alexander III of Russia. The new owner commissioned his favorite architect Maximilian Messmacher to modernize the villa's design. Although Massandra was listed among imperial residences, no royals ever stayed there over night (rather preferring the neighboring Livadia Palace). After the October Revolution and before World War II, the residence was used as a government sanatorium "Proletarian Health" for people ill with tuberculosis. After World War II it was used as a state cottage (dacha) under the name "Stalinskaya". Following the fall of the Soviet Union, Massandra Palace was used as one of the Ukrainian official residences where the Massandra Accords were signed in 1993. From 2014, the residence was taken over by the Russian Presidential Affairs Administration. A new bust of Alexander III was unveiled in front of the villa in 2017. SBW were delighted to perform in the palace grounds together with musicians of the Crimean State Philharmonic Orchestra, and enjoy a guided tour of the prestigious palace.
Following the performance, we then visited the renowned Massandra Winery. Founded by Knyaz Lev Golitsyn in 1894 under the aegis of Tsar Nicholas II, the enoteca of the winery contains about one million bottles! SBW were delighted to visit the famous winery & region, and to sample their incredible produce.
May 5 - Livadia Palace
The Livadia Palace was a summer retreat of the Russian Tsar and his family. The Palace is famed in recent years as the venue for the Yalta Conference which was held there in 1945. The palace was the base of the U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the American delegation, while the Russian delegation was housed in the nearby Yusupov Palace, and the British delegation at the Vorontsov Palace. Today the palace houses a museum, and is also occasionally used for international summits. The Livadia Palace is built of white Crimean granite in a Neo-Renaissance style and contains 116 rooms, with interiors furnished in a wide variety of different styles.
Our ensemble performed a lunchtime recital for delegates of the international conference of historians featuring delegates from Canada, Ireland, Russia and the United Kingdom. The delegation had gathered at Livadia to discuss the impact of the Yalta Conference of 1945.
Following the recital both delegates and musicians were invited to undertake a guided tour of the Livadia Palace, including the rooms used for the Yalta Conference, the Tsar's private rooms and study, plus a visit to the rooftop balcony overlooking Yalta and the Black Sea coast. We were also treated to a private performance by Blagovest Choir in the music rooms of the Imperial family
May 6 - Travel to Moscow
May 7 - Gokhran
May 8 - Touring Moscow
May 9 - Victory Day / The Immortal Regiment Parade
Details of our previous Victory Day visit, and performances and participation in the Immortal Regiment Parade in May 2017, can be found here