Sunday, April 03, 2005

You thought it couldn't happen here?

My parish was one of the venues for the Valaam Ensemble, singers who support the Valaam Monastery in Russia. We only had numbers 1, 3 and 5 in the photo above, because the other two couldn't get visas to come to America.

The tenor, baritone and bass came to the United States on business-tourism visas. The other two, because they are full-time professional musicians, would have had to get performance visas, and for that, they would have had to have an agent or to be hired at musicians' union wages -- no free concerts in churches and colleges to share a wealth of Russian music and collect free-will offerings to rebuild a historic monastery in Russia.

This is their fourth trip to the United States, and the first time they've had this problem.

Which brought to mind a recent article about an opera conductor who was arrested for bringing Eastern European musicians to put on operas in small towns in France. These towns couldn't afford to host operas staffed by French union musicians, but this touring company, staffed with musicians from Ukraine or Bulgaria, bring great music to the towns. The conductor was arrested for violating France's union-protection laws.

Let's just hope our State Department is as serious about keeping out terrorists as it is about outlawing renegade musicians.

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