Iraqi National Symphony reports progress

Posted on: January 18, 2011

In Tuesday’s (1/18) edition of The Wall Street Journal, Melik Kaylan reports on the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra and its director and chief conductor Karim Wasfi, who was recently interviewed in New York during a “trip to drum up support for a possible U.S. tour and to visit old friends.” Three years ago Wasfi had reported “violent incidents, electricity cuts, cracking instruments, pitiful wages, stolen sheet music, and decaying buildings and sound systems. … Mr. Wasfi had run the show since 2004 and survived several random attacks.” Today, says Wasfi, “ ‘the orchestra has expanded to 90 members. We’ve put on very fine performances of “Rhapsody in Blue” and Grieg’s piano concerto, Wagner, Brahms and specially commissioned works by Iraqi composers. …The auditorium capacity is 900 people and the place is packed every time’ ” Committed to offering free performances, primarily through funding from the Ministry of Culture, Wasfi says the orchestra must still contend with “personal searches, ID checks, car searches, and fanatics who disapprove of the symphony. But we’ve generated such goodwill that they’re afraid to oppose us publicly. The Institute of Fine Arts lay disused for two years until we made it our home. We brought new life to the area so the entire neighborhood helps keep us safe.’ ” 

Posted January 18, 2011