In a mysterious incident in London, some 45 musicians of Russia’s Svetlanov State Symphony Orchestra were taken off a plane at Heathrow and held for over 10 hours in a waiting room after a British Airways pilot reportedly called the police.
The orchestra was on its way to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the flight was severely delayed, music site Slippeddisc.com reported.
The site said that while circumstances of incident remained unclear, “it appears there were suspicions of drunken conduct”.
British Airways told Russian media that the musicians were removed “due to technical difficulties”. They were put on the next available flight.
A passenger who claimed to have passed through Heathrow at the same time said she was told by officials the problem with the orchestra was that members had no visas.
Although the full circumstances of this particular incident are unknown, an article published in the Guardian in 2009 under the headline ‘Drinking problems rife in the great orchestras’ reported that although alcohol misuse among classical musicians is “a taboo subject”, the problem is more prevalent than many imagine.
The article (dealing with British orchestras, rather than Russian) referred to various orchestral incidents, including one in which a drunken percussionist had toppled backwards off a high stage while exuberantly pounding the drums.
“Performance anxiety is adduced as one of the main reasons musicians use alcohol,” the Guardian article stated gravely.
Back to the recent BA problem with the Russian orchestra, the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia (Svetlanov Symphony Orchestra) issued the following statement:
“On 9 April 2015, the musicians of the State Academic Symphony Orchestra ‘Evgeny Svetlanov’, divided into two groups, were on their way to a concert tour of countries in South America. One group was on an Air France flight with a connection in Paris; the other took a British Airways flight with a connection in London.
“For unclear reasons, the latter group, consisting of 40 orchestra members, was removed from the British Airways flight at London’s Heathrow Airport. After a 15-hour wait, the incident was resolved and the musicians were put on the next flight to Rio de Janeiro, then they were taken by bus to Sao Paulo.
“At the moment, all of the State Academic Symphony Orchestra “Evgeny Svetlanov” musicians are in Sao Paulo, where today, April 11, they will play the first concert of their tour schedule. We are pleased to confirm that all scheduled concerts in Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Rosario and Santiago will take place as scheduled and that there will be no program changes.
“The administration and staff of the State Academic Symphony Orchestra ‘Evgeny Svetlanov’ express heartfelt gratitude to the representatives of the Russian Embassy in the UK, as well as to the Police and Immigration Office of Heathrow Airport for their assistance and attention to the musicians who found themselves in a difficult situation.”
Written by Peter Needham