Ensemble XXI Moscow in the Tundra with the nomadic indigenous Nenets reindeer herders in the Arctic Circle. Nenets Chief with the younger generation
Ensemble XXI in a helicopter crossing the Tundra Two Chiefs and reindeer listening to Mozart Ensemble XXI frozen finger group Ensemble XXI's Vivaldi Four Seasons in a yurt  


In May 2000 Ensemble XXI Moscow played a dramatic performance
in the Arctic Circle

Ensemble XXI Moscow toured to the Arctic Circle to play in towns that had never seen an orchestra before, bringing live classical music to one of the furthermost parts of Russia.

Furthermore it was decided that the orchestra would fly right up to the Tundra to the indigenous Nenets people who are Nomadic Reindeer Herders. This tour was seen as so unique by Australia's ABC Television that they chose to make a documentary film about it, which subsequently has been shown with great success around the world. Indeed in the midst of the war in Afghanistan it was screened on Al Jazeer! 

Both in Usink and Naryan Mar the halls were filled to overflowing and it was particularly touching to see the great representaion of children in the audiences. No orchestra had ever been there before but yet, as always in Russia, the audiences soaked up the music, the children listening with wonder at even the most difficult pieces. After the concerts when meeting the the music teachers and the students, the orchestra was very moved by their dedication against all odds.An audience member, a Russian deer hunter, told us that he had never before been to a classical music concert and that he was overwhelmed by it.

The final concert was one of the most extraordinary in Ensemble XXI's history. The orchestra flew North by helicopter to the Tundra to seek and to play for the nomadic Nenets reindeer herders. Touching down halfway through the trip, the helicopter picked up a local Nenets man, an expert on the movement of the nomads, who with a map and observation from the cockpit soon spotted a cluster of Nenets yurts (a tent made from reindeer skins) in the middle of the Tundra.
With mounting excitement the orchestra piled out of the helicopter to be
greeted by an equally excited group of Nenets who quickly gathered around the visitors. This community was relatively young with many children. There was an opportunity for all of the musicians and the TV crew to ride on sleighs pulled by reindeer and everyone was invited inside the cosy yurts for a delicious meal of wild goose and reindeer. While the musicians drank tea, the reindeer herders enjoyed their own local drink - a cup of fresh reindeer blood

Then the entire community – including a number of curious reindeer -- gathered outside the Yurts to listen to Vivaldi and Mozart played by members of Ensemble XXI. The freezing wind constantly blew the bows of the instruments away from the strings and the fact that the musicians couldn’t wear gloves made playing even more difficult. The second part of the concert took place inside a yurt, where everybody gathered on reindeer rugs for more Vivaldi. In honour of the audience, the musicians began the concert with "The Hunt" from Vivaldi's Four Seasons. The audience listened with rapt attention, but perhaps the most memorable and overwhelming moment on the tour was the comment by the Chief of the community when he said: "I have heard music from the radio but I never realised that it was such hard work and required such skill. At what age did you all start playing your instruments" A dramatic moment occured when the performance of Mozart and Vivaldi carried across the Tundra and other Nenets arrived to listen to the music.These people heard their first and perhaps only live concert during their lifetimes. For the orchestra it was the experience of a lifetime too, a memory of a visit to this wild and beautiful area where the musicians were made so welcome with extraordinary hospitality of the Nenets.
In the bus on the way back to the hotel the orchestra’s guide, an elderly Nenets lady, sang and recorded a Nenets welcoming song in the old style, which she composed on the spot. She sang of the orchestra's visit to the Tundra and to her people.

This particular tour has been captured in a documentary film made by the ABC.