Neeta Helms and Jacques Vallerand-Parisi found Blue Heart Travel, Inc. in October to coordinate tours to Russia and Ukraine, one year after the Soviet Union falls. An office is opened in Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.
Having sent over 3,000 people to Russia/Ukraine in its first 12 months, Blue Heart takes the Choral Arts Society of Washington on tour to Russia with the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich, the cellist who had defected back in 1974. Just days before departure, Russia finds itself in the throes of a constitutional crisis, involving deadly protests and the barricading of its Parliament building. Undaunted, choir, orchestra and maestro "Slava" press forward, coming together for a landmark concert in Moscow—the first time anything other than a military parade had occurred on Red Square. In front of an audience of some 100,000, including President Boris Yeltsin, Russia is opened to the Western world, with millions more worldwide watching and listening to the historic live broadcast.
With apartheid finally abolished, Blue Heart begins touring to South Africa (as well as Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe) soon after Nelson Mandela is elected president. New destinations in Turkey and many Eastern European countries are added, too.
While Japan and the Far East remain popular, Blue Heart is one of the first travel companies to add China to its tour destinations, following the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square.
Following the end of the Croat–Bosniak War, Blue Heart Travel becomes the very first American company to offer tours to Croatia.
And as soon as the American flag gets raised over the brand-new U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, Blue Heart begins touring Vietnam.
Due to the expansion of instrumental and choral clientele, Classical Movements, Inc. is incorporated as a division of Blue Heart Travel. National Symphony Orchestra engages Classical Movements to operate a two-week U.S. tour for their 1997 season. Our first professional orchestra client, it's the start of long relationship—29 tours, as of 2016.
Classical Movements begins running tours to Cuba, as well as several countries in the Middle East, including Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Israel.
Numerous other countries are added across three continents: South America (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay); West Africa (Senegal, Mali, Ghana, Gambia); East Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Morocco, Egypt); South Asia (Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia).
By the turn of the century, operating solely as Classical Movements, the company is working in more than 80 countries. In addition to Choral Arts Society of Washington and National Symphony, our client list includes: New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Washington Bach Consort, Mendelssohn Club of Pittsburgh, Choir of the College of William and Mary and VocalEssence.
On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, Classical Movements has the entire New York Phil flying home from Germany. Neeta Helms recalls, "By the time they took off from Hanover and landed in Frankfurt, the travel world, as we knew it, had changed forever." For four long days, all flights in and out of the United States are grounded. Undeterred, CM has the NYPO and music director Kurt Masur on the first flight home, out of Frankfurt, on September 15. Immediately following the terror attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania, the company has to quickly retool both travel and performance arrangements for three major clients: Boston Symphony, National Symphony and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Classical Movements helps plan and launch the inaugural YOA Orchestra of the Americas tour—Plácido Domingo's pioneering, Latin Grammy-winning orchestra of brilliant youths from the entire Western Hemisphere.
Classical Movements launches its first festival, the Rhapsody! Children's Music Festival, in Vienna, Salzburg and Prague.
The U.S. State Department and John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts invite the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra to perform in Washington, alongside the Leonard Slatkin's National Symphony Orchestra. With six weeks' notice, and anti-aircraft missiles still lighting the sky, flying the ensemble out of Baghdad proves difficult for CM. Moreover, many of the Iraqi musicians do not have basic travel documents; visas have to be issued in a country with no government. Military aircraft fly the INSO to Jordan, and the ensemble lands in D.C. during a major blizzard.
Classical Movements buys a building on Cameron Street and moves its headquarters to Alexandria, Virginia's historic Old Town neighborhood.
Classical Movements establishes the Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program to commission works from both American and international composers, such as John Corigliano, Joan Tower, Christopher Rouse, Stephen Paulus, Michael Gordon and Caroline Shaw, as well as Paquito D'Riviera, Tania Leon, Olli Kortekangas, Piret Rips-Laul, Oscar Escalada and Mokale Koapeng.
Classical Movements launches its Melodía! South American Music Festival.
Askonas Holt invites Classical Movements to organize the first American tour by Venezuela's Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar, conducted by a 27-year-old Gustavo Dudamel. Venues include the charismatic leader's eventual home: Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles, California. "Dudamel is absolutely revelatory," writes the Los Angeles Times.
Neeta Helms, Classical Movements' founder, takes over as president and primary owner.
Classical Movements launches the Ihlombe! South African Choral Festival with Morgan State University Choir and Pacific Boychoir among the first participants.
Google and 21C Media contract out all travel and logistics to Classical Movements for the debut of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, where e-musicians from across the globe (with all of their very real instruments) finally meet up at Carnegie Hall. It's such a successful venture for all parties, Google—still CM's only for-profit client—pays for a reprise, two years later, at Sydney Opera House in Australia.
In Havana, Classical Movements arranges the first-ever joint concert for American and Cuban choirs on the 4th of July.
Classical Movements launches its hometown festival, the Serenade! Washington, D.C. Choral Festival, with a host of concerts throughout the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
After an optimistic announcement by Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi, and an historic visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Classical Movements begins working in Myanmar (formerly Burma) with a major tour by Yale Schola Cantorum and Juilliard415 under Masaaki Suzuki.
Classical Movements celebrates 20 years as a company and the Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program's 20th commission—Bright Sheng's A Porter's Song, written for longtime CM clients Yale Glee Club.
On behalf of Ebrahim Rasool, South African Ambassador to the U.S., Classical Movements invites original Ihlombe! participants Morgan State University Choir and Pacific Boychoir to perform at the official United States memorial service for Nelson Mandela at Washington National Cathedral. Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and numerous other ambassadors, foreign dignitaries and celebrities are in attendance.
After moving orchestras and choirs thousands of miles around the world, Classical Movements moves, itself...five blocks away. Purchasing an historic 230-year-old home at 711 Princess Street, the building was originally used as the rectory for the famed Christ Church in Alexandria (the same church attended by George Washington and Robert E. Lee).
Classical Movements, Kennedy Center, Chorus America, the Smithsonian, and the United States Air Force Band collaborate on the "Raise It Up! Anthem for America" concert, an exciting event in the nation's capital celebrating the bicentennial of "The Star-Spangled Banner," featuring guest conductors Francisco Núñez and Eric Whitacre.
Americans for the Arts, the United States' leading arts advocacy organization, awards Classical Movements the BCA10: Best Businesses Partnering with the Arts in America. Previous winners include American Airlines, Bank of America, Boeing, Disney, Hallmark, Macy's and Microsoft.
With just 110 days' notice, the Minnesota Orchestra approaches Classical Movements about the possibility of touring to Cuba. "We knew Cuba held such a singular place in American's minds and hearts," remembers Neeta Helms. Leveraging its well-established ties to bypass decades of consular stalemate, the tour is a triumph, including two performances at the Teatro Nacional on Plaza de la Revolución, as well as outreach workshops with Cuban music students. The concerts are broadcast live, around the world, a substantial achievement, itself. CM ensures the safe passage of musicians, instruments and even a special acoustic shell for the concert hall—all into a country with no official diplomatic ties to the United States.
Classical Movements launches its Prague Summer Nights: Young Artists Music Festival, a 30-day program for singers and instrumentalists to receive professional performance training and experiences. The vocalists are mentored by a professional faculty of musicians who hold positions at major universities/conservatories or have major performing careers. Legendary baritone Sherrill Milnes (making his directorial debut) and his wife, Maria Zouves, serve as stage directors for a production of Mozart's Don Giovanni.
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