carnegie logo

Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

« Previous | Babylon & Beyond Home | Next »

WEST BANK: Palestine National Orchestra has its debut


Today an orchestra, tomorrow a state.

With these words, Suhail Khoury, director of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, introduced the Palestine National Orchestra in its debut Friday in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

More than 40 Palestinian and foreign musicians came together to make the dream of a national orchestra a reality. The task was not easy, particularly because most of the musicians also play with renowned orchestras around the world. But for most of them, putting together a Palestinian national orchestra is seen as a stepping stone toward building an independent state of Palestine.

“Today we are witnessing the birth of the Palestine National Orchestra at a time when the Palestinian struggle for independence is passing through one of its most critical and difficult moments,” Khoury said.

“The task of bringing Palestinian musicians together to add a new cornerstone in the building of an independent Palestinian state was a very difficult endeavor,” he said.

The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music was founded in the mid-1990s with a few students and part-time teachers. Today it has more than 500 students enrolled with more than 40 teachers introducing classical and oriental music to new generations of Palestinians, preparing them for the new state to come.

“We musicians truly believe that a state is not only about buildings and roads, but most importantly it is about its people, their values, their arts and their cumulative cultural identity,” Khoury said.

Some of the Palestinian musicians came from Arab countries, where they grew up as refugees after their families fled when Israel was established in 1948. For some it was their first time in their ancestral homeland, a dream they did not think will happen in their lifetime.

The national orchestra made that dream come true for them.

Swiss conductor Baldur Bronnimann led the orchestra's debut, playing music by Mozart, Beethoven and others to a packed auditorium. Mariam Tamari, born to a Palestinian father and a Japanese mother, performed the soprano solo in Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate.

The orchestra will have two more performances in the next couple of days, in Jerusalem and Haifa, Israel.

“The birth of the Palestine National Orchestra is the culmination of many years of preparation and hard work,” Khoury said.

“Although the Palestine National Orchestra will, for several years to come, be a one-time annual event, we will continue to work hard until this orchestra will become a full-fledged, full-time orchestra based in a free Palestine,” he said.

-- Maher Abukhater in Ramallah, West Bank

Photos: Top: The Palestine National Orchestra in its debut at the Ramallah Cultural Palace. Bottom: Soprano Mariam Tamari performing. Credit: Faris Mansour/Edward Said National Conservatory of Music

Comments () | Archives (16)

It is nice to see the press showing Palestinians in a cultured way for a change.

That is a great achievement that makes every Palestinian proud of being one. It portrays the fine and delicate culture inborn in the Palestinian people.

The great oboist, Josef Marx, played in an orchestra called the "Palestine Orchestra" in Palestine (1937). My late wife, Sibyl Totah, a Palestinian and a pianist, performed with Marx, a friend of hers, in concerts in New York City in the period 1960-1967, a fine example of musical partnership as well as Jewish-Palestinian cooperation.

I am cheered to learn of this once-a-year performance of a new Palestine Orchestra, a success for the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music. The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step. (The Conservatory also teaches traditional Arabic music.)

How come the apartheid Zionists will allow the orchestra to perform in Jerusalem and Haifa?

The orchestra obviously has the capacity to make sweet music to Israeli ears in contrast to the hopeless Arab politicians who for the last 63 years have dreamt of nothing but eliminating the State of Israel.

Maybe we should get the Palestine Symphony Orchestra (now called the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra) and the Palestinian National Orchestra to confront each other with batons instead of weapons and try and work out a deal that has eluded the out of tune Quartet for the last seven years.

What joy and pride for the Palestinians! Through struggle, occupation and apartheid, they persevere. May the world support freedom for the Palestinians.
Congratulations to the coordinators, musicians and humankind from other countries to make all this possible for the people and culture of Palestine.

This puts a civilized face on the Palestinians for the West. Showmanship. Edward Said was and is a major influence and is at Columbia University, I believe and has been a life long appologist for the anti-Israeli cause. Proof: there will be no tour of Arab nations by this orchestra, the music is alien to the masses of people and music with a beat is forbidden by Islam and listen to a woman with bare arms siging - verboden! by the Ayatollas.
Of course they carefully chose a woman of interracial background to solve that problem of criticism. Condalesa Rice could't be heard in person by Arab leaders to play piano with covered arms! This is all dress up by the Arabs.

This makes me even more proud of being a Palestinian

We are proud of this work. This is a step towards boosting our self-esteem and an amazing way of struggling for independence. Let the music speak for the Palestinian cause, another sincere voice is needed indeed. Keep up the good work and thanks to everyone who helped shape a national Palestinian orchestra.

They are really Jordanians..

I do love Palestinians as a next guy, nevertheless surely they have some indigenous music to play instead of rough music!

Best wishes for Palestine... we all know she's being robbed, justice is near my friends. In the meanwhile, laugh, love, eat... and play some good tunes!

My congratulations to you & to Edward Said who made it all a reality! I can't wait to hear you when you come to concertize in my town -- Washington, DC! Al Intifadah! How can I donate to your support fund?

I congratulate the Los Angeles Times for writing such a positive article about what happens in Palestine. This is one of many things that can be highlighted and presented to the American public to balance the views.
As an American of Palestinian origin, I am proud to see the accomplishments of the ESNCM and the role they play in the cultural development of today's Palestine and tomorrow's Free and Independent Palestine.

god bless palestine and palestinian people

Quite an achievement. A historical step!

Best wishes for the next 2 concerts.

It's about time!


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...

Recent News
Introducing World Now |  September 23, 2011, 8:48 am »



About the Contributors