NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Trump travel ban blamed for US choir withdrawal from Aberdeen event

Choir Image copyright Randall Gee
Image caption The award-winning choir will now not travel to Scotland

President Donald Trump's travel restriction plans have been blamed for an acclaimed US choir pulling out of a tour to Aberdeen for a festival.

The San Francisco Girls Chorus (SFGC) - which took part in President Obama's inauguration in 2009 - was due to take part in the Aberdeen International Youth Festival (AIYF) in July.

The SFGC said travel uncertainties were the main reason for the decision.

AIYF said it was disappointed, but understood the decision.

President Trump insists the travel restriction efforts are to stop terrorists from entering the United States.

The annual AIYF takes place this year from 28 July to 5 August, featuring groups from around the world.

However, Shelton Ensley, president of the board of directors of the San Francisco Girls Chorus, said they were concerned by news reports of people being unable to regain entry to the United States.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption President Trump is fighting court rulings on the travel ban

He said: "The Grammy Award-winning San Francisco Girls Chorus has been a leading performing arts organisation for decades and takes great pride in serving as a cultural ambassador.

"While the Chorus' concert and educational activities regularly take our choristers across the Bay Area, around the country, and occasionally to other parts of the world, increasing news reports relating to travel incidents upon re-entry to the United States prompted us to stop and re-evaluate the upcoming tour.

"Our number one priority, above all else, is the safety and security of every single member of the organisation.

"With so much uncertainty surrounding the developing story of travel related regulations, we felt that the tour presented an unnecessary risk at the present time."

'Grateful for understanding'

Mr Ensley explained: "The many news reports circulating about travel incidents made it very difficult for us to predict future events with any degree of certainty.

"Reports have included United States citizens and lawful permanent residents being detained while attempting to enter the country or being denied entry outright.

"SFGC's Board of Directors unanimously agreed that the volatility of international travel, as it was developing at the time of this decision, was paramount above all else and solidified our action to cancel the tour.

"As is often the case with non-profit arts organisations, various additional factors - including financial, logistical, and artistic - were taken into consideration as part of the decision-making process.

"However, the increasing uncertainty relating to travel restrictions further complicated matters and gave the Board of Directors the most cause for concern."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The proposed travel ban has sparked protests

He concluded: "As the parent of a chorister impacted by this decision myself, I share the disappointment from fellow parents and members of the Chorus but remain open to and optimistic about the prospect of another international tour in the future.

"We are grateful for the understanding of our partners at the Aberdeen International Youth Festival and the local community that were looking forward to our appearances."

'Obviously disappointed'

Stewart Aitken, chief executive of AIYF, told the BBC Scotland news website: "Obviously we are disappointed, but we think they are being quite sensible at this stage.

"We are hoping they will come in future years.

"We treat is as one of the other challenges we face when people are coming from across the world - and we have plenty else to offer."

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