The Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, which is made up of musicians who are Shia, Sunni, Armenian and Kurdish, yesterday played a concert in Baghdad to promote unity — their first significant performance in years.
Broadcast live on Iraqi television, the performance was attended by 400 people and held to commemorate the World Day for Cultural Diversity, for Dialogue and Development.
Intended to remind the world of what Iraqis can offer and to preserve the country’s cultural heritage, the orchestra’s Iraqi and classical repertoire was selected from culturally diverse folklore, both Arab and Kurdish, along with traditional tunes and classical concertos.
The concert, organized by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, was the first of its kind in this war-torn Middle Eastern nation and was held under both the Iraqi flag and the UN emblem .
Part of the concert – which was addressed by Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, Iraqi Speaker of Parliament – was conducted by Iraqi cellist and the Orchestra’s Director Karim Wasfi, while the other portion was led by renowned international conductor Oliver Gilmour.
“Without culture a country will literally pack up,” Mr. Gilmour, the first guest conductor to be invited since before United States-led forces invaded in 2003, told UN Radio, underscoring the crucial role played by the arts.
He said that a concert such as this is a source of price and “engenders a feeling of quasi-normality.”
The conductor paid tribute to the orchestra’s members, who represent different sects and ethnicities and who have faced danger in attending rehearsals. “In many ways what they do is inspirational and it illustrates, I think, their indomitable spirit and the power of music,” he observed. See more at Symphony For Peace.org.