Iraq’s national symphony plays for unity in first major performance in years – UN
More than 400 people attended the performance, held to commemorate the World Day for Cultural Diversity, for Dialogue and Development. It was also broadcast live on Iraqi television.
The concert, organized by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), was the first of its kind in the war-torn Middle Eastern nation and was held under both the UN emblem and the Iraqi flag.
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.
Part of the concert – which was addressed by Staffan de Mistura, head of UNAMI, and 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.