Russian orchestra reduced to playing for its supper

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LIVING TEN to a room and surviving on bread and cheese and the odd 20p piece tossed at them by Christmas shoppers - it could be yet another torrid tale of Britain's poor or one of Russia's oldest orchestras.

Ticket sales in Swansea for two concerts by the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia have been so dire that the orchestra has been reduced to impromptu busking outside McDonald's to raise money for food and shelter.

Only 100 out of 1,000 tickets have been sold for the orchestra's concerts at Brangwyn Hall, and the 86 musicians have been taking it in turns pass the hat. The orchestra's conductor, Boguslav Davidov, said: "We knew we would be on a tight budget from the start of the tour but no one ever imagined things would get this desperate. Now we literally haven't even got enough money to pay for a bed for the night.

"We had the choice of either getting back on our coaches and going home to Russia or trying to raise some money by playing on the street with a collection bucket. The musicians decided to try their luck on the street. So far we have only collected around pounds 20, but I hope that when word gets around that we're here, more people will come and watch us.

"It certainly isn't how we normally perform. Back in Russia we can easily attract an audience of 1,500, but here it seems like no one wants to listen to us. Accommodation is currently a dormitory in a hostel."

Paul Jones, who was doing some Christmas shopping in Swansea while the orchestra were busking, said: "I came over to listen to the music and was really impressed with the standard.

"It doesn't say much for Wales if this is what happens to visiting performers."