THE panic button was pressed for an East Lancashire vicar when he heard the interpreter for a Russian choir would not be arriving and he was the next in line!

The Rev Ian Dewar, vicar of St Stephen's CE Church, Tockholes, organised for the Russian Cathedral Choir from Kastroma to sing in Blackburn Cathedral this week, and was alarmed when he heard their translator could not come.

Ian has been to Russia twice before and has had six months of learning the language, but felt daunted at the prospect of being responsible for communicating with them.

"They were supposed to be bringing their own interpreter Olga Zabotkina with them, but she was refused permission to leave as officials said she had been out of the country too many times," he explained.

Ian was just beginning to panic when Darwen Rotary Club, who were already providing transport for the choir found someone to step in. "Vera Grantham, a Russian lady who is married to an Englishman, said she would translate," Ian said. "She saved me from a very embarrassing silence."

The choir is currently taking the North East by storm, performing in churches in County Durham and have even made an appearance on TV.

On a whistle-stop trip to Lancashire they will be visiting Ribchester, attending St Wilfrid's CE School, dining at Wolstenholme's in Darwen, and sampling Lancashire hospitality at a special hot pot and ale reception in Blackburn Museum.

Many of the region's businesses have chipped-in to sponsor their journey, with Asda providing the food at the reception, Thwaites and Matthew Brown donating the ale and Gregg's making them sandwiches for their journey home the following day.

The choir are performing at Blackburn Cathedral as part of the Blackburn and Darwen Community Festival on Tuesday, October 10 at 7.30pm. Tickets are £4.50, £2 concessions and are available from King George's Hall Box Office, on 582582.

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