A VISIT by a Lithuanian youth orchestra is strengthening links between Weymouth and Portland and Eastern Europe.

The 29-strong Panevezys Youth Orchestra is coming to the borough next week as guests of One Voice Choir, which is led by the Lithuanian singer and musical director Grazina Ellis.

The orchestra will spend a week in South Dorset, performing three evening concerts and taking part in visits to three primary schools and Weymouth College.

They will also have free time to explore the area and are planning to give open-air performances outside Debenhams in Weymouth and at Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical gardens.

The primary schools visited by the orchestra will be St Andrew’s at Preston, Beechcroft St Paul’s at Westham and St George’s on Portland and the choirs at each school will have the chance to perform with the foreign musicians.

Grazina, who lives with her husband John in Broadwey, near Weymouth, established One Voice three years ago in Littlemoor Community Centre and is delighted to see it grow from strength to strength.

When she lived in her native Lithuania she sung in several successful ensembles and choirs and travelled the world for performances and competitions.

She said: “When I came to Weymouth I saw that local choirs were mainly made up of older people and I wanted to have one for younger people, so I started my own choir because I wanted to sing what I wanted to sing.

“At the first rehearsal, just two people turned up and at the second, a different two were there. But we persevered and suddenly people started to come and then we had around 12 to 15 people. Now we have 25.”

The arrival of the orchestra is the return leg of a dual visit. Last year, One Voice travelled to Lithuania for a series of concerts in two cathedrals in the district of Panevezys. They also had time to explore the area and take part in St John’s naming day – much to the delight of Grazina’s husband who was presented with a celebratory wreath.

When the orchestra and One Voice perform in Weymouth, their programme will include Lithuanian songs as well as music by Rutter and Karl Jenkins’ Adiemus And Palladia.

Each concert will end with a rendition of What A Wonderful World.

Panevezys Youth Orchestra will be playing at Weymouth Bay Methodist Church on Tuesday, April 5, at 7.30pm and tickets will be £5.

They will be joined by One Voice Choir and the three primary school choirs at All saints Church, Portland, on Thursday, April 7, (7.30pm, £6) and Saturday, April 9, at St John’s Church, Weymouth, (6pm, £7.50).

Tickets are available from Sunflowers in St Thomas Street, Weymouth, The Outdoor Store in King Street, Weymouth, and Island Community Action in Easton, Portland.

For further details, call 01305 815531 and 01305 826662 or log on to onevoiceweymouth.com