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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 March 2006, 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK
Red tape silences orchestra tour
Members of the Halle Orchestra
The Halle Orchestra could not afford the time or money needed for visas
The UK's longest-established symphony orchestra has abandoned plans for a US tour because of the time and money needed to secure visas for its players.

Manchester's Halle Orchestra required 100 work permits at a cost of £45,000.

These could only be obtained from the US embassy in London, 185 miles away, where each member of staff would have been interviewed and fingerprinted.

Marketing director Andy Ryans said the orchestra "simply couldn't bear" the visas fees or the 100 trips to London.

'Frustrating and sad'

"We knew that the rules regarding entry into the States, particularly on work visas, had changed. We appreciated the reasons for those changes," he said.

"But £45,000 is a very, very substantial proportion of what the overall costs were likely to be."

He admitted the decision was "very frustrating and sad" for all of those concerned.

John Caulfield, consul-general at the US embassy in London, said: "This is the first case that I've heard of a group having to cancel."

Special arrangements could be made for a large number of people to apply for their visas in one sitting, and groups were a "priority", added Mr Caulfield.

Sir John Barbirolli, Halle Orchestra conductor from 1943 to 1970
Under Sir John Barbirolli, the orchestra gained a global reputation

"It's always very exciting for people to be able to hear orchestras other than their own. It's exactly the same in this country," said Mr Ryans.

"People are able to hear the Halle in Manchester 65 times a year. It's always wonderful when that same audience can experience orchestras from Europe and the States."

Mr Ryans added that it was a shame if the bureaucracy involved in gaining entry to the US led to a decline in the number of orchestras travelling there.

There was an attraction for audiences in hearing the output of visiting musicians, he said, because it was "about being able to look at how different orchestras approach music".

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