THE renowned Boyan Ensemble of Kiev is back for its tenth tour of the UK and is appearing in Malvern Priory on Saturday, November 17.

Since its first visit, the choir has carved an impressive reputation for the power and spirituality of its performances.

For this tour, the first part of the programme will comprise ancient chants and sacred works of the Eastern Orthodox Church, culminating in the Great Doxology by A Nikolaev-Strumski.

The second half reflects the Ukraine's rich folk heritage with a diverse selection of songs, some humorous, some soulful, plus a wonderful lullaby by Boris Lyatoshinsky, one of the Ukraine's most distinguished composers.

The choir's debut tour in 1992 started less than auspiciously. The Ukraine had just become independent, its arrival in the UK was delayed by visa troubles and a promoter had just cancelled the concerts which would have raised money for the journey home.

The singers were stranded in Malvern with no money but their tale of woe was picked up by a national newspaper and offers of concert dates poured in from around the country.

They stayed six weeks and performed at venues which ranged from cathedrals to pubs. The reception was ecstatic and, since then, the annual Boyan tour has been a fixture in many music lovers' diaries. And, of course, Malvern has been their home away from home.

This year there are 23 concerts planned from Edinburgh to Penzance, including a live Radio 3 broadcast from Bristol and a charity concert in Marlborough College.

Margarete Rolle, the ensemble's UK coordinator, said one concert, in Bradford-on-Avon, was already sold out and tickets were going well elsewhere.

"They will spend a total of five nights with their host families in Malvern and they are greatly looking forward to that," she said. "Perhaps there will be time to recapture the thrill of their first tour, when they all walked the hills and were televised singing on British Camp.

"The tour is tightly scheduled - only two days without concerts and one of those will be spent travelling from Darlington to Cornwall with an overnight stopover in Malvern."

Once again, Malvern-based bass-baritone Vassily Savenko is guest soloist for the tour. His most recent CD, English Poets, Russian Romances, has just been released to rave reviews.

Tickets for the Malvern concert are available at the Lyttelton House Gallery, 3 Abbey Road, on 01684 574921.