Iraqi National Orchestra manages to play on, 10 years after invasion

Posted on: March 18, 2013

In Saturday’s (3/16) Guardian (London), Peter Beaumont writes from Baghdad, “When I first came across Husam Aldeen al-Ansari seven years ago, he was first violinist and a composer with the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, which then was going through one of its darkest times. Murderous gangs were roaming the streets and many of the musicians and staff had either fled abroad or were too afraid to travel to rehearsals. Those that did attend found themselves playing in a rehearsal hall without electricity, forcing them to practise in the kitchen, where there was enough light to read their music. … The heightened religious atmosphere has meant that the orchestra is now careful to avoid offending people’s sensibilities. It does not perform when there are major religious festivals. … ‘The orchestra,’ Ansari continues, ‘is a tradition in civilisation and a civilising phenomenon. … I think one of our problems has been the withdrawal of that educated elite from our society.’ … He still believes that the situation in Iraq can improve, ‘but only when the politicians and other groups start talking to each other and when ethical standards become more common. When everyone thinks that they’re an Iraqi first.’ ”

Posted March 18, 2013