An account by Conductor Lygia
’When we my concertmaster and I
were invited back to Sakhalin to give master classes, we were
anxious that we would be able to travel right around part of the
island as opposed to staying only in the main city, Yuzhno
Sakhalinsk. One of the places that we were invited to teach in was
the music college in the town of Nevelsk which is a long journey
by the sea road. As our transport was looked after by a foreign
company on the island we were able to take the so called safer and
shorter "police route" reserved for "the
authorities" cutting through the centre of the island in the
added advantage of an excellent 4WD.
Well you could have fooled me about
"the safer route" We travelled for hours over
treacherous terrain to Nevelsk, suddenly encountering craters in
the road whilst on either side there would be a sheer drop into
We arrived to a very warm welcome
at the college where very tea, sandwiches and cakes awaited us.
Pia and I were rather surprised, however, when a teacher came with
us to the loos bearing a huge bucket of water. It seemed that the
town's residents had been without water for weeks and weeks and
only one administrative building had water where the teachers had
gone armed with buckets for our visit. I found this grim situation
in complete contrast with the natural beauty of the place (not
counting the run down housing) when from the classroom windows we
spotted dozens of sea lions basking on the peninsula.
Under these conditions we were
presented a programme listing rather difficult pieces for string
ensemble. I must admit that we really doubted that the children
could carry such a programme off. They began their performance. We
were treated to playing of such musicality carried out with such
aplomb. We almost gasped. Again this is Russia. No matter what the
hardship, the music will sound out. Here in Nevelsk, which to me,
coming from Ireland, seemed to be the end of the earth, the 8 to
14 year old children played with aplomb, style and technique.
After this a little boy played a violin concerto by Spohr so
beautifully. After we had worked with him we said that we would
have loved to invite him to the final concert of the master
classes in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
We left with such incredible
feelings that fuelled us for the frightful journey back in the
dark. Unbeknown to us that night, the little boy and his parents
got into their little car and travelled through the night to us
(on the truly horrendous normal route) after which he played a
note perfect performance. He then got back into the car so that
his parents would be back at work in Nevelsk in time. There are so
many stories like this on Sakhalin.
Recently when we were there the
Energy workers had all been on strike for months because of lack
of pay. As a result there was no water or electricity for up to 24
hours a day on many occasions. Sometimes there was water for 2
hours a day but you never knew when it would come on. People would
invite us for dinner and just as they were about to serve, the
electricity would turn off. Yet even then they would cope by
cooking on a small camping flame run by gas and we would eat by
candlelight. Everywhere there were buckets of water collected and
quickly refilled every time there was half an hour of water.
People died in hospitals in the middle of operations when the
energy was switched off as there was no back-up system. When we
taught in the Music College the student’s orchestra had, for
every musician, another student who would stand behind them
holding a candle whilst we coached them for three hours.
The lights turned off before the
second half of a concert where we were to play by popular demand,
Schoenberg's "Transfigured Night". There was a
wail from the audience. After an hour and a half the lights came
back on. As I walked on to the stage, I was stunned to see that
there was not a single empty seat despite the freezing conditions.
I don't think that we could ever play Schoenberg better than that
on Sakhalin Pacific Rim Music
Festival 2003, 2004