Upbeat: Deep relief

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THE ROUSING and rare sound of a professional Russian male voice choir will be doing the rounds of northern England for the second half of May. Of the 19 singers in the Roussland Male Voice Choir of St Petersburg, no fewer than 11 are in the baritone range or below, including two specialist low basses; they sing sacred music by Russian composers and special arrangements of folk songs. By all accounts they are at the forefront of a revival in their singing tradition, and many of the members also work as soloists, conductors or musicologists.

The tour has only been saved from collapse - the original promoter took financial fright and pulled out - by a striking example of composer's will power. David Golightly, who lectures at Oldham College, thought he was going to St Petersburg six weeks ago to hear a rehearsal of a Pushkin setting, Rites of Passage, that the choir had commissioned from him for the visit to Britain. He ended up taking over the entire tour management and having to tackle the bureaucratic hurdles of travel arrangements from scratch. 'My blood pressure went slightly high,' he admits. Now he is working on making the tour raise money for poverty relief in St Petersburg as well as for the choir itself. The tour includes a BBC recording in Manchester and ends with two dates in London and the south: details from 0625 875389.