Friday, December 29, 2006

From Dr. Nuri Bahjet in Baghdad

July 2nd, 2006


Dear Wafaa,

I got your letter dated 5 June, addressed to our friends Bassim and Munir with ccd to Ihsan and myself. Then I got a message from Munir on 5th June and 9th June commenting on the subject concerning the establishment of our National Iraqi Symphony Orchestra (INSO) and mainly discussing the role of Albert Chaffo. It is quite a pleasure for me to comment on this rather interesting subject:


1-The statement you read in an article about Chaffo in the early seventies indicating that he had already introduced the whole country of Iraq to music:

I cannot imagine that Chaffo could claim such a think. Before proceeding further, I would like to give you the following information, which should be helpful to enlighten the question:

During the forties, the activities of the Musical Committee in the Royal College of Medicine (being a member myself), the activities during the weekly or monthly gatherings were preparing lectures on classical music, history of music, composers, etc, with demonstration on gramophone records, and occasional recitals, presenting violin duets, trios, string quartets, and the like. The committee thought to give some information about the orchestra, types of the instruments used and the main deference between the orchestra and the band. We wrote an official letter to the concerned authorities in the army, (please see below) requesting the attendance of half military band from the Royal Guard Military Band, to share in the Music Recital, which is planned to be held at the college on 27th Jan.1945. The honorary head of the committee, Prof. Boswell, signed the letter (which I still keep a copy of). The following is the exact copy of our request:




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لجنة الموسيقى في الكلية الطبية
الرقم
التاريخ: 8/1/1945
الموضوع: .........
سعادة مدير الادارة في وزارة الدفاعارجو السماح لنصف جوق من موسيقى الحرس الملكي بالعزف في الحفلة التي ستقيمها لجنة الموسيقى في الكلية الطبية الملكية و ذلك يوم السبتالموافق 27/1/1945 في الساعة الحامسة بعد الضهر ونشكركم
الرئيس البروفسور س. بوزويل
( التوقيع )-

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2. The program of this humble recital is hand written and poorly penciled was as follows:

A- Welcoming word by Prof. Boswell
B- Lecture by Cap. A.Chaffo L.A.R.M, A.R.C.M, Director of Music, Iraqi Army,
C- Adagio from quintet No. 3 by Hayden (Fine Arts Institute students, names not mentioned).
INTERVAL
D-. Two Violin Duets, (though names not mentioned, as I remember, and as shown in
the poster which I am trying to scan, they were pieces from Jacques Aubert-plaid by
M. Awkati and myself.
E- King Guard Band- conducted by Cap. Chaffo:
Overture Festival,
Oriental Airs
Largo, from the New World- Dvorjak
Carmen, Bizet,
The Royal Anthem
________________________________________________


One can recognize that this recital was a routine thing, and Captain Chaffo was requested to share in it. He was very nice, gave a very efficient conduction of his band and useful lecture. His staff under his conduction presented beautiful classic pieces and quite a clear demonstration of the instruments of their band, (wood, brass and percussion) and comparison between the military band and the symphony orchestra.

3- After he was back in Iraq, was awarded the Worshipful Company of Musicians Medal in England. He must deserve such an Award, possibly as a fine conductor of his Military Band.

4- The government gave him the job of bringing western musical culture to Iraq.
I might admit this claim if any body could give the title or name of such a job.


5- He formed Symphony Orchestra in Baghdad
Why not he gave a name or title for such an orchestra?


6- Started a school of music through which he trained musicians and conductors
The only school of music known at that time and still is, the Institute of Fine Arts, started in 1940-1941; I was accepted in the first year just at this time, together with my medical studies, four years after training on oriental music with simple tutors. Even though it could be well understood that Cap. Chaffo have trained his staff in the Military band on conduction.

7- Dear Wafaa, you enquired about one of Momers recitals, including the name of the composer Boildieu, Francois Adrian,- (Caliph of Baghdad -overture).
This recital was presented in Dec. 12, 1971. The composer was born in Rouen, south west of Paris, wining fame at 25 with the Caliph of Baghdad. The program included, if you are so interested, the following:
A- The above Overture
B- Flute concerto in D major Mozart)
C- First Symphony (C Major) Beethoven
The No of players of the Orchestra participated in this recital were 64
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8- Your enquiry on the establishment of Mahad Al-Moseeqa, I expect that our friend Bassim knows much about it than I do. However, I am copying some of the useful information from a book written by the known painter who died about two years ago, Shakir Hasan Al-Saeed, which I think is worth obtaining.. This information is taken from pages 111 and 128 of his book (presenting it in Arabic):

يعتبر تاسيس المعهد الموسيقي التابع الى وزارة المعارف, عام 1936 , وكان يديره و يشرف على كل شؤنه حنا بطرس حتي عام 1939, حيث استلم ادارته فيما بعد الشريف محي الدين حيدر كمدير للمعهد اولا, وثم كعميد له عندما حوله الى( معهد الفنون الجميلة) عام 1940, بعد ان لاحضت مديرية المعارف نجاحه. وقد بوشر في اول تاسيسه بتدريس الموسيقى الهوائية في فرع الموسيقى الغربية (او العالمية), ثم اضيف الى هذه الشعية شعب جديدة هي الكمان والفيولونسلو والبيانو. اما فرع الموسيقى الشرقية فقد بدا فرع العود اولا ثم اضيف اليه الناي (1938/1939) ثم اضيف فرع القانون (1944/1945). وقد تم اضافة فرع الرسم والنحت عام 1939/1940 , واضيف بعدئذ فرع التمثيل.

ملاحظة: اسم الكتاب اعلاه هو فصول من تاريخ الحركة التشكيلية في العراق


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Wafaa also enquires about a recital, which she has gotten a copy of the invitation cart from me, and states:
The Musical Committee
Royal College of Medicine presents
Chamber Music Recital
Under the direction of
Prof. Walter Jenke.
With members of the Ensemble Class of the Institute of Fine Arts
On Tuseday April 1st, 1947, 9 pm In the College auditorium
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Now, and after exactly 60 years, she is asking me to find for her the program of this recital. Searching here and there among the old rotten papers, I couldn’t find the program of that exact recital; but lastly, I was lucky to see among these papers a program of a Chamber Music Recital, also under the direction of Pro. Walter Jenke, and also with members of the ensemble class of the Institute of Fine Arts, but it was held on Friday, May 9th 1947,at 9p.m.,40 days after holding the first recital. The only difference is that this one is held for the benefit of the Armenian Y.M. Association.. This is the program:

1- Quartet for Clarinet and strings Stamitz
Jenke (Clarinet), Baboukhian (violin), Ridha (viola), Kouymoujian (Cello)

2- Trio for two Clarinets and Cello Mozart
Jenke (Clarinet), Munir Allawerdi, (Clarinet), Kouymoujian (Cello)

3- Serenade Eine Nachtmusik Mozart
Members of the Ensemble Class of the Fine Art Institute, including N. Bahjet

INTERVAL


4- Quartet of Strings Mozart
Aram Baboukhian (1.violin, Albert Belboul (2nd Violin,), Jenke Viola Kouymoujian (Cello)

5- Oboe Quartet in F. Major MOZART
Jenke (oboe), Belboul (violin), F. Ritha (viola), Kouymoujian (Cello)

6- Divert for Oboe, 2 Horns and Strings Mozart
Members of the Ensemble Class of the Fine Art Institute, including N. Bahjet

The other subject raising the interest of our dear Wafaa was what happened in the Royal medical college on 22nd April 1944. The program, which I still possess, states the following; you can recognize that the program is not a pure music recital but included some other allied activities which are interesting to discuss:

الكلية الطبية الملكية العراقية ( الحفلة السنوية)ا

السبت 22 نيسان 1944

المنهاج: ا
1- منتخبات من والز شتراوس (الاوركسترا)
2-رقصة المقابر ادور. عباجي و خليل الشابندر
3-د يالوك (السيد والسيدة اء زيا)
-قطعة موسيقية من شوبان الاوركسترا4
-قطعة غنائية 5.
قنطرجيان -6
- الرابسودي الهنككارية نمرة 2 ليتست الانسة سلف بوغسيان7
-اغنية بحارة الفولغا الفرقة8
- فانتازيا (عزف على الكمان سامي الشيخ قاسم) 9
-عزف على البيانو ا. بحوشي 10-
في مخيم النور ( مشهد)فترة ( عشرة دقائق) ا
- عيادة طبيب (رواية تمثيلية ذات فصل واحد)11
-
السلام الملكي ختام


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It seems to me that it is quite interesting to Comment on this (Gathering), presented at about the end of the academic year. One can recognize that it is comprised of different items. Small pieces of classic music, stretched in between the other items:

1- Selections from Straus Waltzes, presented by what is considered as (orchestra), in facts they are students of the fine art institute, only three years after its establishment.
2- Item No.4: peace from Chopin, plaid by Orchestra,( Institute students only)
3- Item 5, a song by Kanterjian, (one of the music lovers),just to show sympathy.
4- You see (item 8) a piece played on the violin (Sami Al-Shaikh Qasim), unaccompanied which is rather unusual, also with Miss. Silva Boughousian on the piano alone, though this is rather usual.
5- Item (2)-Dance Macabre, a famous Classic piece, I don’t remember the composer, might be- (Giacomo Meyerbeer??) The two boys (actors) representing two Satan, their faces blackened with charcoal, two horns stuck in front of their heads, dancing here and there, vividly and energetically round the macabre in a horrible way, following the rhythm of the music presented by a gramophone record.

This might show how our music committee was working, preparing a program with music, songs, dramas ,military bands, all with the intention of expansion of music culture, bringing more music lovers to the committee when classic( western) music was only an infant..

NOW, let us come to the message from Al-Wafaa News dated 9th January, which included Munir’s message to Bassim, and me, which seems worthwhile commenting on. To start with my old friend Munir deserves warm greetings from me, from the City of Baghdad, and also from his strong old roots he implanted here in Baghdad and in the INSO.
Munir stated: there is no doubt Chaffo was the first Iraqi to form a symphony orchestra.

I wonder if he will still say so if he reads the information mentioned above. I feel that not a single Iraqi person could claim such an achievement. This might be true not only in Iraq but other countries on earth. The credit should be given, with various degrees, to so many people who offered genuine work for years or may be for decades. My view, which I present here for discussion, is the following:

Before 1937, the year of the establishment of the Al-Maahad Al-Mouseeki, which started teaching in the classic section wind instruments only, it is hard to trace any Classic Western Music in Iraq. When this Maahad (or Center) was established, it was run by Pro. Hanna Petros who acted also as a tutor in wind instruments in this maahad. (See item 9 above page 128 of the book). I remember in 1935, when I was in the last year primary school, Mr. Hanna Petros coming to the classroom with some of his colleagues, and their wind instruments, teaching us new songs (anasheeds) very energetically. What rate this man deserves? He didn’t establish a Symphony Orchestra; but he definitely has put a tiny, but a strong stone in its foundation.

In 1939, (Al-Sharief Muuhyeid deen) took over the Maahad from Hanna Petros, and in 1940; he raised its standards to the Institute of Fine Arts. He added new classes of violin, viola, violoncello, and employed tutors, Professors from other countries, among those are Prof. Julian Hertz , the famous Piano tutor, and Said Enys Djameel, violin and viola tutor, (premier prix du Conservatoire de Paris), who taught me violin, starting from1940-1941. Those two and Sando Albo, the very serious violin tutor, didn’t establish a symphony orchestra, but they have the credit to teach tens if not hundreds of student who shared in its establishment, apart from you, my dear Munir, and your brother Farid and my brother Ghazi Bahjet, and our active friend Ihsan as well as tens others who many of them have been enjoying their work in the Diaspora,..

I am sure, my dear Munir, that as a professional musician you understand such a question better than me and am feeling awkward to mention this for you. The orchestra was not established with 60-70 players all of a sudden. It was started with simple duets after the encouragement of Prof Djameel, duets on two violins, for the first time in Baghdad in the auditorium of the medical college since the early forties. Two violins playing simultaneously, in a mode of counterpoint, played and appreciated for the first time in the city of Thousand and One Nights.

In 1944, with much regret, the exact date is missing, students of the fine art institute performed on the ground of the Royal College of Medicine, and for the first time, the first violin concerto of Beethoven. The soloist and conductor was Prof. Djameel Said. That ensemble, students of the Fine Art Institute of whom, I was a member on the second violin, was not a symphony orchestra, but it was definitely the long and definite way to it. In 1945, Prof. Said was called for military service in France, left Iraq to be followed by Prof. Sando Albo, who was again may tutor, not at all an easy one and was not less energetic. Now, concerts are more frequent, this new type of music is more appreciated by the public. Cultural institutions from various countries, British, French, Russian, German, Spanish, Austrian, all these institutions shared in performing recitals of various categories, Soloists with various instruments invited from different countries are now sharing in this continuous festival. Lending classic records, meetings and lectures, all in the way of extending music culture in the country.

In 1960-61, the conductor Siegfried Stolte was the conductor of the (growing) orchestra. The number of the players under his conduction in the concert performed on April 8th was only 6, among was Prof. Petros Hanna Petros on the trumpet.

At last, Prof. Hans Gunter Momer, from Germany, appeared from behind the clouds somewhere in the early sixties. He must have definitely received an invitation from muse, the sister goddesses of Arts. He put his feet down from the flying carpet, directly in the city of the one hundred night and one night, to complete the whole picture. Adequately prepared and trained musicians for all sorts of music instruments, practicing for at least for 20 years, now are ready to burst and to be organized as a developing orchestra of the ancient city.

Baghdad flourished with songs, music and music lovers and enthusiasts for two decades, waiting for two Hercules to appear again from behind the clouds, one rising from Mesopotamia itself, the other came from (across the continents), far away, one after the other, enjoying, the distraction, burning and sacking every thing, to compete with their ancestor Nero Claudius Germanicus, the fifth Roman Emperor, in burning and sacking Rome in the year 64 AD.

Note No.1-

Dear Wafa, Knowing that you are so interested in the history of Classic Music in Iraq, I am trying to send four attachments showing some of the activities of our music committee in the old days. The rotten papers were not discovered by either of the Hercules above, who worked hard enough to (finish) the main Art Center of Plastic Art and the Main museum among every other cultural institution.

Note No. 2-
Again the sister Goddess Muse appeared unexpectedly, this time you don’t know from where! Four invitations for attending Music Recitals, starting from 28 Jan.2006, the last on 5th May. The first one performed on violoncello and Piano, the second, Violoncello, Clarinet and piano. The third Violoncello and piano, the fourth is the same. The standard of those Iraqi artists was extremely high, as I felt, and the number of those who have had the chance to be one of the attendants, is of course rather minimal. These activities were beautifully organized by the Iraqi Center for Development and International Dialogue, directed by Mr. Mahdi Al- Hafudh, Parliament member. Many attendants here claim that they recognized the sister Goddesses Muse, entering the main hall, hand in hand with Mr. Mahdi. After the recital, the goddesses were seen scattered in the garden among the visitors joining the generous snacks and beverages, prepared so nicely by Mahdi. All the attendants came and returned back home safely, though it is not yet known how much of the protection is attributed to the Army Tanks, in relation to that offered by the clever Muse Art Goddesses sisters who were so keen to see with extreme interest that all are safe and are really consuming what they are hearing whatever the surrounding environment was!!

Love
Nuri M. Bahjet


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Responding to Nuri Bahjet


Dear Nuri,

I was delighted to receive your email and wish you the best of health and happiness. Thank you for your valuable comments and contribution to Wafaa`s work on the history of INSO. I think you and I agree in our views on the role of Albert Chaffoo in giving Iraqi music lovers the opportunity to hear live classical music performed by Iraqi nationals be it through his military band or his "make shift" symphony orchestra.

In the College of Medicine, you and our friend, the late Sami and Mustafa Edhem (viola), played a significant role in leading the way to the idea of INSO. In your remarks on a concert where Said Enyss Djameel played Beethoven`s violin concerto, and because during the same event a string ensemble participated, the impression was created that the ensemble accompanied Djameel for the violin concerto which as you know is not correct. Djameel was accompanied on the piano by Julian Hertz.

I was particularly happy to notice in your email that my old friend Mehdi Alhafudh has organized a concert in Baghdad. Please give him my best regards if you see him again. We were friends during his sejoure in Vienna and I, upon his request I introduced him to classical music here by taking him to orchestral and even chamber music concerts. He arranged for my string players and me to give two concerts in the United Nations. Best regards to Fuad Ridha as well.

Your old fiend
Munir Allahwerdi

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Dear Nuri:

Here are my comments regarding the points you've presented in your detailed and appreciated note:

You wrote in point 1, "The committee thought to give some information about the (orchestra), types of the instruments used and the main deference between the (orchestra) and the (band).

Knowing you were discussing the time of Chaffo and later the activities at the college of medicine, it is important to refer to it as an ensemble, chamber, quartet, etc. rather than an orchestra because it didn't become an orchestra, in the definition of an orchestra, until 1959.

In the same point 1 you provided an interesting date (Jan. 27, 1945) for the concert to be held at the medical college, which adds more confusion to the already known dates for this concert. I previously emailed this paragraph here it is again just to refresh our memories:


" 5. I have with me two historic programs of performances at the Royal College of Medicine. I think I obtained them from Dr. Nuri Bahjat, but not sure! Actually, they are three documents. The first indicates that The Baghdad Baroque Ensemble with Conductor Hans Mommer was taken place at the Center of English Studies (Waziriya) on Friday, February 11th (no year???). The second indicates that a concert (without the name of the Orchestra being printed) was taken place at the Royal College of Medicine on Saturday, April 22 1944 with no documentation
of the conductor's name!. The third is a ticket with a seat category (200 fils) that documents the name of the group as the Chamber Music Recital, conducted by Walter Jenke at the Royal College of Medicine on Tuesday, April 1st 1947.

Do you know how many chamber/orchestral music performances were performed at the College of Medicine in the 1940s? Do you know who conducted the April 22, 1944 concert at the medicine college? Do you have the program of the first concert performance at the college of medicine?
"


In point 5 of your email, you were commenting on the newspaper's quote, "He formed Symphony Orchestra in Baghdad" talking about Albert Chaffoo. Neither he nor anyone formed a Symphony Orchestra until 1959.

It will be great if Munir, Fu'ad Mishu and Bassim comment on the issue of Chaffoo starting a music school in point 6.

Thank you for providing the complete program of one of Mommer’s recitals and of a concert at the medical college.

In addition to the dates I already mentioned in my email (in the colored paragraph above), you have added other concerts and dates attributed to the medical college.

I wish we establish a chronology of these concerts along with the names of whether they were chamber, ensemble, quartets, orchestra, etc.., date and who conducted them (if available). Both Munir and Bassim indicate the Walter Jenke never conducted!

Of course the entire following page (without numbers) that you wrote needs verification and commentary by Munir and Bassim.

The minute I receive detailed commentary about your reply, I will post them with this minor correction along with the commentary by others!

Thanks again from beloved Baghdad. I wish you strength and patience at this harsh time we Iraqis are facing. I also hope that Hameed Issa received my email reply, and that he is well along with all his family members. I ccd my reply to few on this list, so I hope it was received.

Please send my greetings to your wife,

Gratefully,
Wafaa' Al-Natheema
http://insonewsletter.blogspot.com/

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The three dates given by Dr. Nuri interest me;

1-The 1944 April 22 could be the one in whic Hanna Petros conducted the string ensemble. If this assumption is not true, then I was a participant in performimg alongside other students from the Institute.

2- The January 27,1945. January would have been too cold to have a concert in the garden. Therefore it could not be the one in which Hanna Petros conducted. And if so then I could have been a participant but not remembering what did I play.

3-The April 1st.1947. For this, there are photographs available. The participants were the leading members of the Fine Arts Institute orchesta ( Better if called ensemble) for which Jenke was described as the director.

200 fils for entry to a concert given by amateurs was high a price. We should have paid the audience money for bothering to come !!. On the other hand, entry to concerts given by Prof. Hertz or Albu were half to one dinar. About the Wazeeiyeh concert I know nothing except, maybe, for its relation to Ihsan who played solo flute in it. I had already left Iraq by then.

Munir

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Dear Wafaa:

I am not going to deal with Nuri’s notes in details, but giving you once again some facts. One should differentiate between (Symphony Orchestra) and (Symphonic Music)
And other musical forms and groups.

Those activities, mentioned in Nuri’s paper, were mostly performed by smaller chamber music groups (Quartets – etc.) and Military Bands (Not Orchestras).
Munir, for example, (who among others including my two brothers Petros and Sabah) was the very pioneering musicians in gathering such groups (performing concerts here and there).

I personally started in 1952 along with other three musicians (including Munther) our (Hayden String Quartet) under supervision of Sandu Albu – we never referred to this as (symphonic music). And on top of all were the ‘Fanfare’ Wind Instruments Bands organized and led by my father (Hanna Petros) since the early 1920s in Mosul, then through Baghdad Teacher’s Training Institute – Music Institute (Maahad al Mosseqa) – Iraq Scouts Movement and the Fine Arts Institute. All these were not (Symphonic Music) nor (Symphonic Orchestras)

Gathering from the above brief, that Walter Jenke, in his capacity as instructor of Wood Winds section in Maahad al Fonoon Al Jamila (1946 - 1948), he did not conduct any Orchestra, but supervised his Wood Winds groups. He was a highly qualified teacher of Clarinet.

Finally, it is not easy to deal with historic issues; unless gathering and analyzing documentary references; accordingly, the very first ‘gathering of musicians into String Orchestra’ under the umbrella of the Fine Arts Institute (Maahad al Fonoon Al Jamila) was that of 1941 conducted by Hanna Petros in its only performance at the Royal College of Medicine in Baghdad, Which was considered as the ‘Founding Stone’ of the IRAQI NATIONAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA (INSO).

The 50th INSO anniversary celebration, which we organized in 1991, was based on this fact, and officially recognized by the INSO department through the Ministry of Culture and information.

Finally, INSO was born and raised within the Fine Arts Institute; if there were some other Orchestras, they should not be referred to our INSO issue.
You will get the documentations later.

Bassim
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Dear Wafaa:

- Nuri’s involvement in INSO was his participation in the first concert of 1941. He had other activities with chamber music smaller groups

- Walter Jenke, who I remember well, was an excellent friendly person served as teacher, musician and instructor for student’s activities. He never conducted any orchestra.

- Chaffo conducted his Military Band Orchestra but had absolutely nothing to do with the INSO.

- Throughout the life of the INSO, there were few personnel who contributed in writing/editing musical literature programs and posters, among them were Hamdi Qadouri, Lamman al Bakri, myself, Mazin al Zahawi, Ghazi Bahjat: every one has had his own style writing (in Arabic and/or English). This gives an idea of the use of certain proper words, like Conductor, or Conducted, etc. It was not an easy task.

Best regards.
Bassim

Encls.: 1921 photo showing Hanna Petros as music teacher, Band Master at the Chaldean School in Mosul; one of his students was Saeed Shabo (famous composer of Anasheed Wataniya) sitting to the very right side.
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Dearest Dr. Nuri:

First of all, thank you so much for your important memories with explanation about the classical and sym. music and arts in the Iraqi society.

1- It is very important for me to know with your historical details during the forties about the music activities of the musical committee in the Royal College of Medicine -Baghdad (as you were active member in, as I believe).

2- I think that was parallel together with the music activities in Maahad Al-Moseeqa, later Fine Arts Institute ( F A I ) - MUSIC DEPARTMENT, also you were studing the music there in that period.

3- You and the other musicians and artists from your generation, all were the pioneers whom established the basic of the Symphonic and classical music in and arts in the Iraqi society.

4- Since 1953, when I started to study the music at the FAI, I knew the talented musicians and teachers, and artists like: Farid and Munir Allawerdi , Aram Tajirian, Aram Bboukhian, Fouad Ridha, Hamdi Qaddoori, Sami Shaikh Qassim, Biatris Ohanisian, Silva Boghosian , Petros H. Petros as well as his father ( Prof. Hanna Petros ) who was the director of Maahad Al-Mouseeqa 1936-1939, Jawad Salim, Faik Hassan, Haqi Al-shibli, Ibrahim Jalal and others.. Of course you too and later you were teaching the Anatomy to the students of the plastic arts department in FAI ,THOSE ALL IRAQIS PLUS THE LEADER OF THE WESTERN MUSIC DEPARTMENT IN FAI Prof. Sando Albo, violin, viola as well as the conductor of the FAI orchestra, Prof. Julian Herz - Piano (both from Romania), Prof. Adnan Qopouz fom Turkey, wood winds + percussion +contrabass.

5- I remember also there was exist at that time Hayden Chamber group or Quartet, the members were from the teachers and advanced students in FAI, I can not remember their names, perhaps our dears Munir and Bassim to remind us. I am sure they performed and played many concerts at that period, it will be interesting if we can get some of their programs.

6- During the period 1953-1962 of my study at the FAI, I knew the foreigner musicians who taught at the FAI:

Martin Wolf - Flute, Germany, he was my first teacher.
Wolfgang Teising - Cello, Germany
? Hommel - Clarinet, Austria
? Falcon -Oboe , Chec .
Franz Schubert - Flute, Chec , he was my last teacher.
Kobitsa- Clarinet + bassoon, Chec, with his wife famous Solo Clarinet.
Siegfred Stolta - Leipzig , at that time east Germany : Conductor, Bassoon + Composition , Harmony,
Mukerem Berk -Flute, Turkey ,I have been study with him too.
Raafat Yalbaz-Oboe, Turkey.
Masaood Jamil - Cello, Tamboor ,Turkey .
Najdat Varol - Qanoon. Turkey.
Jawdat Chaghla - Violin, Turkey.
Jan Drat - Piano, Poland.
George Mann - Violin , harmony, chamber music (Hungary) , short times he conducted the INSO .
Elisabeth Shkora - Cello,Hungary

7- I remember also The Baghdad Philharmonic Society, and Baghdad String Quartet.. founder Aram Tajirian.

8- In the fifties famous musician Sharif Mohi Al-Deen Haydar (former dean of FAI) came to visit his brother Mohammed Ameen Haydar, he was the dean of FAI in that period, Sharif he performed and played concert at the hall of FAI, I was in that concert, he played the 1st.half of the program. The 2nd half of program, he performed on his Cello famous compositions by great European composers, the piano accompaniment was by Julian Herz, unfotunately I left or lost most of my musical and art archives , books, music notes and important programs of the INSO and chamber music groups which I played with all.since I left iraq in 1998.

9- My generation and I, who studied at the FAI, have been influenced by your generation dear Dr. Nuri , and we continued developing the music activities after your steps in the Iraqi Society .

10 - The conclusion was 1960-1961 the INSO, IRAQI NATIONAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA began (During the period of the Iraqi National Leader A. K. QASSIM) when all music teachers and advanced students with the big help of the artist Dr. Khalid Al-Jadir who was the dean of AFI in that period. I think we all succeeded and our dear INSO MEMBERS STILL ALIVE AND PERFORMING CONERTS WITH ALL BAD AND SAD DESTRUCTION OF OUR MOTHERLAND IRAQ.

11- I shall leave our dear friend Bassim to continue the writing of the history of music life and history of the INSO. As far as I knew, Bassim started working seriously on this great subject few years ago and we exchanged the information and memories with important details, programs, conductors and so on. We are waiting for Bassim’s important book.

12- Thank you so much dear Dr. Nuri for informing us about the recent music activities since Jan. 2006 through 5th. May 2006. Also I heard that the INSO played a concert last month at Nadi Al-Sayed in Mansoor, which is near your house. Thanks for MUSE ART GODDESSES who helped you all to see and listen with extreme interest to the music and returned you all back home safely.

God bless and save you all from the daily fire in Iraq and in each place, may our Great god will bring good fortune prosperity, happiness and peace for our motherland, IRAQ AND ALL IRAQIS.

With best wishes and regards.
Yours,

Ihsan Ad.ham

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Report by INEAS -- December 2003


The December Newsletter of the Institute of Near Eastern & African Studies (INEAS), a non-profit organization in Cambridge, MA.

Website: http://www.INEAS.org


Inside This Issue:

1. Commentary by Wafaa' Al-Natheema, Founder of INEAS, on the concert of the IRAQI National Symphony Orchestra (INSO) at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.

2. A selection of letters via email and mail from artists and activists regarding the INSO concert in DC.

3. "IRAQI Symphony Upstages President Bush" by Mike Zmolek of the National Network to End the War Against Iraq.

4. Barbara Jepson's article in the NY Times (Sunday, December 7th, 2003) about the INSO's history and the Kennedy Center performance, along with a note from our Institute.

5. News about the Report on the visit to Baghdad by our Institute's women's delegation in November 2003.
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1. Great Music Washed Away A Residue of Pain by Politics
By Wafaa' Al-Natheema

Many have been angered and very disappointed about the collaboration of the State Department and the Kennedy Center to invite the INSO to DC on Tuesday, December 9th. They were equally concerned about how the Iraqi members of the Orchestra allowed themselves to be used by the Bush administration. Further criticism came after seeing Bush, Powel, Rumsfeld and other politicians attend the concert and give an unpleasant and fact-distorting speech (by Powel) about hope and freedom!

Despite the political controversy that overshadowed the project of helping and promoting the INSO, the music performed at the Kennedy Center concert was so superb, it washed away the tension and the disappointment of many. Mohammed A. Ezzat's composition, "Three Fragments" was the best piece performed that night, with all do respect to Beethoven and his fans. It had an exquisite melt of feelings and power from East and West. It penetrated the soul narrating many stories. When the piece ended, my Bravo came out first and loudest. Unfortunately, it is unavailable on CD.

The concert Program included pieces by Beethoven, Bizet, Ezzat, Sagirma and Faure. Members of the Iraqi Orchestra have been working tirelessly for months in preparation for this concert. Indeed they are talented, committed and courageous. However, some history-and-music distorting facts were printed in the program of that evening's concert:

The music instruments, daf, santur, tar, oud and zarb (or tabla, drum) were enlisted as Kurdish instruments! I did not understand the logic behind this gross error other than politics again. There was Kurdish artists wearing Kurdish costumes and playing some Kurdish composed tunes, but none of the instruments mentioned above are Kurdish (in origin or in later development). These instruments were never referred to as Kurdish before this concert took place! If the INSO and the Americans helping with this project wanted to present a cultural event that truly represents Iraq's ethnic minorities and the majority (of Arabs), they should have done it differently. The American and European media seem to emphasize such a distorted picture of Iraq's ethnic majorities and minorities. Barbara Jepson's article in the NY Times (December 7th, 2003) states, "The Orchestra's present ranks include Kurds, Sunni and Shiite Muslims and Assyrian Christians." Hisham Sharaf, the INSO director, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times (November 6, 2003) stating, "We want to be an example. We are Kurds, Turkmen, Shiite, Sunni, Christians. We are a family."

These are only two examples of so many quotes about Iraq's ethnic and religious communities, quite an "Iraqi family" presented by some members of the INSO and the western media. It seems that there is some kind of an alergy developing from or a conspiracy against the Arab and Moslem majority in the society while also neglecting the mention of other ethnic and religious group! In fact with regard to the INSO, Armenians were a considerable percentage among its composers and musicians and among the present body of the Orchestra, yet they never get enlisted. Currently, two of the three women musicians in the Orchestra are Armenians. The only Iraqi woman composer to receive a grand piano imported especially for her by the Iraqi government in the early 1980s was Beatrice Ohanessian, an Armenian. One of only two musicians who have been performing with the Orchestra since the 1940s is an Armenian by the name of Nubar Pashtikian. Iraq's Armenians and (nearly all) Arabs did not collaborate with the USA in its recent war against Iraq. That explains it!

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2. Letters from activists/artists:

Following the Kennedy Center concert, we've received two letters from George Capaccio, a writer, storyteller and an activist, and from Jessica Stensrud, a musician and an activist:


[ Dear Wafaa':

I happened to read an article published in the Independent in which you were quoted. You were talking about the recent visit to Washington by the Iraqi Symphony Orchestra. I also read Felicity Arbuthnot's commentary on this visit. It amazes me that it happened at all. I started watching the concert on TV but couldn't bring myself to continue. I kept thinking about the fact that Powell, Rumsfeld, Rice, Bush were all sitting there and feeling so good about themselves, and that the American public was probably doing the same thing. I suppose I can understand how the musicians regarded this visit as a major opportunity not to be missed. But how on earth did they find the largeness of heart to perform in front of the very individuals who organized the invasion of their country and are now overseeing its occupation. I seethe with anger at the mere sight of Rumsfeld and the rest. I cannot imagine performing for them.
George Capaccio
December 13, 2003]

(*_*)_________________(*_*)

[To Whom It May Concern:

December 12, 2003

I am writing as a concerned musician and citizen of the United States on behalf of the Iraqi National Orchestra. I surely do not have extensive knowledge of the particulars of Iraqi or Arab history, religions or sects. However, I do feel quite strongly that the United States government as regards this orchestra and its musicians is generating the wrong idea. As a musician myself, I feel I can understand that these musicians are non political in their outlook. However, as artists, they represent the greatest product of a culture: its art. They are trying to preserve their way of life as musicians and as proponents of Iraqi culture. If these people lose this identity, then we all lose. We may in the end achieve a monotone general culture with little distinction or interest.

We have lost a museum full of antiquities and records of ancient civilization in Iraq, which affects us all. We all cannot afford to lose more even if it seems to not be our own to lose. I don't feel the United State government can afford to be so short sighted and closed minded to the need to validate other cultures especially ones that we are saying that we are "rescuing" from dictatorship.

In watching a CBS broadcast of a performance of INSO at the Kennedy Center, I was alarmed to see Colin Powell delivering a short statement to say that the concert was "a sweet sound for peace." Perhaps his remark was innocent in its intention, but I felt it entailed a sort of hijacking of the misery that these people have endured for the purpose of a politically motivated sound bite. Sure, the Iraqis want peace and freedom, but they also want and deserve their own culture. If we mean to help others as we say, then we must see first who we are helping and actually communicate WITH THEM to find what they need, what their concerns are and how we all can work TOGETHER. We cannot just make assumptions, make hasty destructive actions, react to negative displays from people trying to protect themselves and their culture and then use their very misery and attempts to receive help as a tool for our political and financial gain.

I will finish by saying that I have always thought this country, the U.S.A., was built on its own religious principles whereby others are treated as we ourselves wish to be treated as well as the injunction to "love thy neighbor as thyself." I am very concerned that these philosophies do not seem to be being upheld as regards our dealings with Iraq and other Arab nations.
Thank you,
Jessica Stensrud]

////////////////////


3. Iraqi Symphony Upstages President Bush
By Michael Zmolek

Security was tight as President Bush, Colin Powell and the other starsof the Bush Administration were attending a performance of the IraqiNational Symphony Orchestra (INSO) playing with the (U.S.) NationalSymphony Orchestra (USNSO) at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC on December 9th, 2003. I managed to arrive only just in time for the music, missing speeches by Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

As I waited with a frustrated crowd outside the barred doors of the auditorium, Powell told the audience that the INSO "testifies to the power of the arts to keep hope alive even under the cruelest oppressors" (by which we assume he meant Saddam and not the U.S.-led sanctions). The line into the parking garage had been moving at a snail's pace, aseach car was searched by bomb-sniffing german shepherds. I was asked to pull my car aside for a second check. I thought perhaps this was because the dogs had picked up the scent of my own dog on the upholstery. But when a secret service agent came over to chat, and asked me about the www.endthewar.org bumper sticker on my car, I figured that was probably the reason for delay #1.

Delay #2 came in the lobby where a sizeable crowd was held up at a security check point right behind the ticket-takers.I did not go for the music. I went to show solidarity with an orchestra that to many represents a nation's pride and its dignity.

The INSO had struggled through the '90s, being short on strings and reeds, just asIraqis suffered from shortages of food, fuel and all necessities. Even sheet music had been banned under sanctions, and I knew of many peacegroups and orchestras in the U.S. who had undertaken to send parts, music and instruments to the INSO in defiance of the absurd 'dual-use'policy of sanctions. I had seen Mohammed Amin Ezzat, the INSO's conductor, interviewed in John Pilger's film Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq, which documented the devastating effects of sanctions on Iraqi civilians and children. In the interview Ezzat, through an interpreter, explained that his wife was badly burned by a noil cooker that exploded in their home. Due to sanctions, thousands of Iraqis turned to cheap oil cookers as a replacement for electric stoves, but they were prone to igniting and exploding.

USNSO Conductor Leonard Slatkin conducted the up-beat opener by Beethoven, and you immediately liked him-this white-haired dwarf whose body convulsed as if the music were an electric current running through him. You could even say he was dancing. Ezzat then took the baton to conduct his own composition: Three Fragments. As this piece unfolded, I gradually forgot about the political nature of this performance-the presence of Bush and his entourage, the fact that the State Department was sponsoring the event*-and was swept away by the music. With three movements, each based upon the musical traditions of Iraq's three major regions (North, Central and South), the music seemed to be telling a story. It was a piece of music that ebbed and flowed, with lyrical traditional melodies woven into a somber, often sad, but dramatic work. For me, it was a reminder that even in a country like Iraq during the sanctions decade of the '90s, even in the midst of a country racked with tragedy, bombings, starvation, military dictatorship, there is still genius at work-a mind is working away at creating something that feels inspired by a divine passion, that takes us beyond the experience that can be described in books and journals and makes a statement through another medium that is captivating and expresses something out of time.

World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma played the lead solo in the third piece, a sad French 'Elegie', almost a dirge. He rocked forward and backward, caressing his cello almost as if it were a lover, but with a deep painon his face. I thought of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children who but for sanctions might have lived to hear such graceful music.

Next, Ezzat conducted the fourth piece by fellow composer and INSO member Abdulla Sagirma (who was present on stage), a piece that featured a troop of Kurdish players in traditional garb playing traditional Iraqi instruments. When Slatkin came out for the fifth piece he gave what was surely the best speech of the night, talking about how music is truly the universal language and how the performers met only the day before and immediately fell into all sorts of conversations about such details of the art as mouthpieces and technique. And I reflected upon how strange it was that it was possible for Iraqis and Americans to blend together into one big, amazing orchestra to produce truly beautiful music together, while at the very same time in Iraq, Americans andIraqis were trading mortal fire. Slatkin conducted an arrangement of atraditional Iraqi tune called Over the Palm Trees, arranged by German composer Mommer, which when put next to Ezzat's fresh and emotive piece felt artificial, but suitable for this event in that it came from a colonial time when Iraqi art was to Europe only something to be appropriated.

Ezzat 'traded places' and conducted a traditional European piece by Bizet to close the event. Bush and Co. left immediately, and the audience was instructed to remain in their seats for ten minutes. In that moment, it was eery the way power had a kind of freezing effect on the warmth of the event. At the reception there was a sense of jubilation among the INSO's performers, who had been flown from Baghdad for only a three-day visit. Some commented on the way the Kennedy Center reminded them of one of Saddam's palaces-very tacky.

But when Rend Rahim Francke, the new U.S. envoy to Iraq, took the microphone to talk about what a glorious day was dawning for the 'new Iraq', it felt as if all the elites had not left with Bush. Her expensive and uptight dress and makeover, and a very American accent, made me wonder when was the last time she had spent time in Iraq. I later learned that she was born in Lebanon, lived her life in London and was married to an American. Having never actually lived in Iraq, she could sit with Newt Gingrich, and a host of ex-generals and military contractors on the "Committee for the Liberation of Iraq," perhaps not knowing or caring about the "price" ordinary Iraqis had paid for Saddam's sins under sanctions.

Whatever capacity for music appreciation President Bush or Condoleeza Rice may have, I could not help but feel that the INSO was brought to please the 'emperor' as a prize art ensemble of a people currently undersubjugation. It had that feel to it, although the INSO is clearly thrilled to be touring again and parched for international recognition. And I had little doubt that for Bush this was a publicity stunt to get some political brownie points by trying to show some appreciation for Iraq and Iraqi culture. But why be so transparent? Why not leave the State Department out of it and let it be all about art? Then it might not be so suspect. The most troublesome aspect of the whole affair was that back home in Iraq, the insurgents are targeting those who appear to be collaboratingwith the occupation. Iraqis who know the musicians personally aredeeply worried that they could be targeted when they return to theturmoil of the U.S. occupation in Iraq. These concerns cast a shadow over the motives behind staging the event and allowing it to besponsored by the US State Department.


*Note: the December 9th concert was jointly sponsored by the U.S. State Department and the Kennedy Center. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has launched 'Operation Harmony,' a project to collect donated instruments and spare parts in collaboration with the Department of Defense and the Pentagon. These parts and instruments are to be airlifted to Iraq by the Pentagon.

Michael Zmolek is the Outreach Coordinator for the National Network to End the War Against Iraq. He can be reached for interviews at: 301-270-4858; 888-363-2927 toll free.

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4. Please note that we will be emailing you a commentary about Barbara Jepson's article (below) shortly with a copy to the editor of the NY Times and to Barbara Jepson. We hope you follow up and write to them as well.


Here is the article:


This Battle of the Bands Is Peaceable
By BARBARA JEPSON

December 7, 2003 Soon after the Arab press reported that the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington would play alongside each other at the Kennedy Center, Hisham Sharaf, the director of the Iraqi orchestra, was shot at as he drove down a highway near his home in Baghdad. A bullet penetrated his windshield, but missed him."I don't know who or why," Mr. Sharaf said recently from Baghdad. "I think maybe it's because of the concert. On Al Jazeera, they say they are surprised that the orchestra goes to Washington at this time. We don't have political reasons. Maybe the American side thinks about that, but we go to play music, to see the American people and to show we have culture. Some people think we have only desert and camels."

The concert, a free, hour long event on Tuesday evening, mixes European classics with recent and traditional music by Iraqi composers. Leonard Slatkin, the music director of the National Symphony, shares the podium with Mohammed Amin Ezzat, the conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony. "We're trying to find a way to use music to combat what was a tragic circumstance," Mr. Slatkin said from Washington, "no matter what side of the Iraqi argument you come down on." But political overtones have shadowed the venture.

It is the first of several initiatives by the State Department to restore cultural exchange between Iraq and the United States after nearly 13 years of United Nations sanctions. Perhaps inevitably, some argue that the Iraqi orchestra is being used. "I'm furious that our government is trying to put a happy face on the extinguishment of the cradle of civilization," said Patrick Dillon, an independent filmmaker who shot in Baghdad before and after the American-led assault and is a vocal critic of the war effort.

Michael Kaiser, the president of the Kennedy Center and a cultural ambassador for the State Department's Culture Connect program, said from Washington that the idea for the invitation was entirely his."It's critical to give visibility not just to the Iraqi National Symphony but to all the arts in Iraq," Mr. Kaiser said. "I also believe the arts can play a role in healing and a role in educating us about Iraq, and the sooner the better in both cases. "The Kennedy Center is covering the cost of the National Symphony's appearance and the use of the hall, and the State Department is paying transportation and lodging expenses for the 60-member Iraqi orchestra, Mr. Kaiser said. But in his view, the event has no more political significance than the restoration of the State Department's Fulbright scholarship program in Iraq.

To muddy the waters further, two assistants to L. Paul Bremer III, the top American civilian administrator in Iraq, play with the understaffed Iraqi orchestra as substitutes. Asked how he felt about their participation, Mr. Sharaf, the orchestra's director, said: "The problem every time is between the governments, not musicians. We speak the same language do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si, do."

The political connection has proved advantageous for the orchestra. One assistant, who started a corporate donor program for the Coalition Provisional Authority, has helped solicit donations to the orchestra. Yamaha responded by providing 30 new brass and woodwind instruments, and Steinway & Sons will lend a grand piano. Better string instruments are still needed.As a result of Mr. Bremer's inquiries, the Major Orchestra Library Association, an American-based international service organization, has also become involved. It has begun to send more than 350 scores to lay the groundwork for a national repository available to all Iraqi musical organizations. Other institutions are assisting the School of Music and Ballet in Baghdad, where many orchestra members teach. The school was looted and trashed after Mr. Hussein's ouster. Desks were broken, pianos ruined and other instruments damaged or stolen. Orchestra members say the vandals were angry, impoverished individuals who viewed the state-supported school as a government entity. The school was reopened on a limited basis, but when the Kennedy Center concert was announced, more instruments were attacked.

"There is an element in Iraq that is not happy that Iraqis are playing Western music or teaching Western music to their children," said Allegra Klein, a violinist. She founded a group called Musicians for Harmony, in New York, which raised $1,000 for the Iraqi orchestra at a benefit concert.Hers is only one of several such efforts. Operation Harmony, a project conceived by the National Endowment for the Arts, appealed to the classical music community for instruments, musical accessories and cash to help Iraqi music students. It also appealed to the Pentagon about the logistics of airlifting the donated items, however, and that raised a few hackles."You have a government agency related to the military involved in the music scene, which makes it very political," said Wafaa Al-Natheema, an educator and founder of the nonprofit Institute for Near Eastern and African Studies in Cambridge, Mass. Ms. Al-Natheema hopes to arrange future tours for the orchestra and helps edit an unofficial newsletter on its activities. "If the U.S. government really wanted to help," she said, "they could use a nongovernmental agency, a charitable institution like the institute or the U.N."Such extramusical baggage has not dimmed the orchestra's enthusiasm for the Kennedy Center concert. "It's the first dream we get," Majid Alghazali, the principal second violinist, wrote in an e-mail.

Mr. Ezzat, the conductor, who fled Iraq for Sweden in 2002 after being asked to compose a score for a novel written by Saddam Hussein (as he had done once before), returned last fall. "They told me the orchestra has more future hope, and I came back to continue on, to make this hope for us," he said from Baghdad. "In the past, our orchestra was not free. Now we are free. We make our future."Part of the hope involves increasing the orchestra's size, wages and artistic caliber. In contrast, say, to Iraqi playwrights, who typically required approval of their scripts and casts to win funds from the Hussein government, the orchestra mostly suffered from benign neglect.Founded in 1959, it once had a German conductor and an international membership.

During the 1970's and 80's, it had more than 70 musicians and occasionally toured Russia, Algeria, Lebanon and Jordan. Guest artists and teachers regularly visited Baghdad.But its budget diminished over the years. Then as now, most members required a supplementary job, like teaching, driving a taxi or selling coal.In 1994, when Mr. Alghazali joined the orchestra, his salary was about $150 per month. By 2002, musicians were earning $10 to $20 per month. Now Iraq's Ministry of Culture pays them $120 per month.Mr. Alghazali reports that orchestras in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon pay about $500 per month. He believes that the Iraqi orchestra will ultimately need to match that figure to attract and retain the best players. There is talk of starting a musicians' union.

THE history of the Iraqi National Symphony is in some ways a microcosm of life in this war-torn country during the last five decades. It was disbanded in 1966 by a government official who is said to have disliked Western classical music. From 1968 to 1971, when the orchestra was allowed to resume public performance, members rehearsed surreptitiously at the home of a cellist, Munther Jamil Hafidh, who taught many of the players at the School of Music and Ballet. And in 1985, during the eight-year war with Iran, two children of the assistant conductor, Abdul Razzak Ibraheem Mahdi, were killed when his house was hit by an Iranian missile. Recent skirmishes have also taken a toll. Rasheed Concert Hall, one of the orchestra's performing spaces, was bombed during the air campaign in the spring. (The orchestra now plays in a spacious air-conditioned hall at the Palace of Conferences.) The second floor of Mr. Sharaf's house was accidentally shelled by American troops during a firefight. His mother was injured, and he was hit by shrapnel in a finger.Omar Hassan Alshikh, who joined the orchestra's cello section in 1991 and began working for the United Nations last April, was seriously injured in the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad in August. He now lives in Amman, Jordan, where he was taken for medical treatment.

The United Nations sanctions imposed in 1990, after Iraq invaded Kuwait, and maintained after the gulf war had predictably adverse effects on musical life. Although the Iraqi orchestra played 140 concerts after Mr. Ezzat became conductor, in 1989, it did so under increasing deprivation. The sanctions made it hard to obtain replacement scores, strings, valves and other essential equipment.In addition, talented performers left Iraq for Jordan or Europe.

The orchestra's present ranks include Kurds, Sunni and Shiite Muslims and Assyrian Christians. They also include three women. In June, the orchestra gave its first concert after the war. About 45 musicians played "My Nation," an anthem predating Mr. Hussein's rule. According to press reports, audience members wept as they sang. Since that event, rebroadcast three times on Iraqi television, the orchestra has emerged as a symbol of courage and perseverance through suffering. Meanwhile, another symbol of hope for greater cultural understanding stands at the School of Music and Ballet. Early media reports after the war lamented the destruction of a keethara: an unusual piano with a dual keyboard, one tuned to Western scales, the other to Eastern quarter-tones. Actually, the keethara is intact, damaged but reparable.

It will be far more difficult to heal the wounds of the past and sort out the political challenges of the present."Before, if you were not near the government and you did not talk badly about the government, you were safe," Mr. Sharaf said. "Now we can talk freely, but we don't know who is the enemy and who likes or doesn't like this music. But we hope and I think all the Iraqi people think that the future is better."


***************

5. A detailed report will be emailed on or by December 30th regarding the visit of our women's delegation to Iraq in November 2003 to hand donations to the Iraqi Symphony Orchestra and the Music & Ballet School in Baghdad.

^^^^^^^^^^^
Note: The detailed report mentioned in point 5 (above) can be accessed at:
http://zennobia.blogspot.com/2005/04/report-from-baghdad.html

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Important Correspondence RE INSO

In a message dated 12/06/2003 8:31:46 PM Eastern Standard Time, Nardo writes:

Dear Wafaa'

You had mentioned the need for a certain number of $10 contributions to keep the newsletter going, but I didn't see any information as to whom to make out the check and an address to where to send it. Also, to whom and to where can I send a check for the INSO for supplies?

Regards,
Nardo Poy


Dear Nardo:

Thank you for your interest in subscribing. Please note that thosewho wrote back wanting to subscribe with $10 were only eleven. So, knowing the number is VERY LOW, the December
e-newsletter will be the last. Regarding donations for the INSO, the Institute of Near Eastern & African Studies (INEAS) used to collect thesedonations to take to Baghdad and it just delivered the donations in November. However, after realizing that the INSO has been getting generous support from around the world and has been using the media to exaggerate its list of needs and hide the truthabout the worldwide support they are getting and that its members allowed themselves to be used by the American government/military turning this musical and cultural project into mere political campaign and propaganda, INEAS withdrew its project to aid the INSO.

Wafaa' Al-Natheema, founder of INEAS, organizer of the women's delegation to go to Baghdad to deliver the donations (between November 12 and 15) and the list moderator of theINSO bimonthly e-newsletter (for over two years), felt unappreciated at all while in Baghdad. Recently, the director of the Orchestra, Hisham Sharaf, had told the NY Times reporter that the INSO e-newsletter is unofficial to discredit over two years of work (of researching, writing, corresponding and editing) done by Wafaa' and other members of the team. In fact the NY Times reporter received two emails from INEAS indicating to her that Wafaa' was not the only writer/editor and that all names of the writing/editing team should be acknowledged if the INSO e-newsletter was mentioned, yet the article indicated that the newsletter is unofficial and that Wafaa' (without mentioning others) edits it, thanks to the INSO's director.

Of course neither Wafaa' nor any of the writing/editingteam had considered these e-newsletters to be official. Thes enewsletters began in October 2001 during the old regime, and had no connection with nor took permission of the old regime or the new appointed council/Ministry of Culture ! It was the fruit of nothing, but music lovers such as Wafaa' and former INSO musicians (plus one musician/composer who is still part of the INSO). So we were astonished by the mean question (if asked by the reporter) and by even more damaging response given by the INSO's director! This is aside from the fact that the article failed to disclose the larger (than Muscians for Harmony's) donation amount that INEAS (and Wafaa') has raised for the orchestra!!

There are more truly needy musicians/artists in Iraq than those affiliated with the INSO if you or your organization would like to donate to their cause. INEAS will not deal with or support the Iraqi Symphony Orchestra anymore. A public announcement will be sent worldwide on the subject matter within a week (from INEAS@aol.com).

Wafaa' and INEAS have lost nearly $2000 campaigning to help the INSO. None of Wafaa's expenses for the trip to Baghdad were funded. The above figure excludes the long distance calls that Wafaa' have encountered since 2001 communicating with INSO musicians or pertaining to calls related to the INSO.

Below is yesterday's NY Times' article mentioning about Wafaa' and the e-newsletter.

Thank you for your interest in helping,

Cordially,
May Roberts
On Behalf of Wafaa' Al-Natheema
----------------------------------------


This Battle of the Bands Is Peaceable

By BARBARA JEPSON
Published: December 7, 2003

Soon after the Arab press reported that the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington would play alongside each other at the Kennedy Center, Hisham Sharaf, the director of the Iraqi orchestra, was shot at as he drove down a highway near his home in Baghdad. A bullet penetrated his windshield, but missed him.
"I don't know who or why," Mr. Sharaf said recently from Baghdad. "I think maybe it's because of the concert. On Al Jazeera, they say they are surprised that the orchestra goes to Washington at this time. We don't have political reasons. Maybe the American side thinks about that, but we go to play music, to see the American people and to show we have culture. Some people think we have only desert and camels.

"The concert, a free, hour long event on Tuesday evening, mixes European classics with recent and traditional music by Iraqi composers. Leonard Slatkin, the music director of the National Symphony, shares the podium with Mohammed Amin Ezzat, the conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony."We're trying to find a way to use music to combat what was a tragic circumstance," Mr. Slatkin said from Washington, "no matter what side of the Iraqi argument you come down on." But political overtones have shadowed the venture. It is the first of several initiatives by the State Department to restore cultural exchange between Iraq and the United States after nearly 13 years of United Nations sanctions. Perhaps inevitably, some argue that the Iraqi orchestra is being used. "I'm furious that our government is trying to put a happy face on the extinguishment of the cradle of civilization," said Patrick Dillon, an independent filmmaker who shot in Baghdad before and after the American-led assault and is a vocal critic of the war effort.

Michael Kaiser, the president of the Kennedy Center and a cultural ambassador for the State Department's CultureConnect program, said from Washington that the idea for the invitation was entirely his."It's critical to give visibility not just to the Iraqi National Symphony but to all the arts in Iraq," Mr. Kaiser said. "I also believe the arts can play a role in healing and a role in educating us about Iraq, and the sooner the better in both cases."The Kennedy Center is covering the cost of the National Symphony's appearance and the use of the hall, and the State Department is paying transportation and lodging expenses for the 60-member Iraqi orchestra, Mr. Kaiser said. But in his view, the event has no more political significance than the restoration of the State Department's Fulbright scholarship program in Iraq. To muddy the waters further, two assistants to L. Paul Bremer III, the top American civilian administrator in Iraq, play with the understaffed Iraqi orchestra as substitutes. Asked how he felt about their participation, Mr. Sharaf, the orchestra's director, said: "The problem every time is between the governments, not musicians. We speak the same language do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si, do."The political connection has proved advantageous for the orchestra. One assistant, who started a corporate donor program for the Coalition Provisional Authority, has helped solicit donations to the orchestra. Yamaha responded by providing 30 new brass and woodwind instruments, and Steinway & Sons will lend a grand piano. Better string instruments are still needed.As a result of Mr. Bremer's inquiries, the Major Orchestra Library Association, an American-based international service organization, has also become involved. It has begun to send more than 350 scores to lay the groundwork for a national repository available to all Iraqi musical organizations.

Other institutions are assisting the School of Music and Ballet in Baghdad, where many orchestra members teach.The school was looted and trashed after Mr. Hussein's ouster. Desks were broken, pianos ruined and other instruments damaged or stolen. Orchestra members say the vandals were angry, impoverished individuals who viewed the state-supported school as a government entity. The school was reopened on a limited basis, but when the Kennedy Center concert was announced, more instruments were attacked. "There is an element in Iraq that is not happy that Iraqis are playing Western music or teaching Western music to their children," said Allegra Klein, a violinist. She founded a group called Musicians for Harmony, in New York, which raised $1,000 for the Iraqi orchestra at a benefit concert. Hers is only one of several such efforts. Operation Harmony, a project conceived by the National Endowment for the Arts, appealed to the classical music community for instruments, musical accessories and cash to help Iraqi music students. It also appealed to the Pentagon about the logistics of airlifting the donated items, however, and that raised a few hackles. "You have a government agency related to the military involved in the music scene, which makes it very political," said Wafaa Al-Natheema, an educator and founder of the nonprofit Institute for Near Eastern and African Studies in Cambridge, Mass. Ms. Al-Natheema hopes to arrange future tours for the orchestra and helps edit an unofficial newsletter on its activities. "If the U.S. government really wanted to help," she said, "they could use a nongovernmental agency, a charitable institution like the institute or the U.N." Such extramusical baggage has not dimmed the orchestra's enthusiasm for the Kennedy Center concert. "It's the first dream we get," Majid Alghazali, the principal second violinist, wrote in an e-mail. Mr. Ezzat, the conductor, who fled Iraq for Sweden in 2002 after being asked to compose a score for a novel written by Saddam Hussein (as he had done once before), returned last fall. "They told me the orchestra has more future hope, and I came back to continue on, to make this hope for us," he said from Baghdad. "In the past, our orchestra was not free. Now we are free. We make our future."Part of the hope involves increasing the orchestra's size, wages and artistic caliber. In contrast, say, to Iraqi playwrights, who typically required approval of their scripts and casts to win funds from the Hussein government, the orchestra mostly suffered from benign neglect. Founded in 1959, it once had a German conductor and an international membership. During the 1970's and 80's, it had more than 70 musicians and occasionally toured Russia, Algeria, Lebanon and Jordan. Guest artists and teachers regularly visited Baghdad.But its budget diminished over the years. Then as now, most members required a supplementary job, like teaching, driving a taxi or selling coal.In 1994, when Mr. Alghazali joined the orchestra, his salary was about $150 per month. By 2002, musicians were earning $10 to $20 per month. Now Iraq's Ministry of Culture pays them $120 per month. Mr. Alghazali reports that orchestras in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon pay about $500 per month. He believes that the Iraqi orchestra will ultimately need to match that figure to attract and retain the best players. There is talk of starting a musicians' union.

THE history of the Iraqi National Symphony is in some ways a microcosm of life in this war-torn country during the last five decades. It was disbanded in 1966 by a government official who is said to have disliked Western classical music. From 1968 to 1971, when the orchestra was allowed to resume public performance, members rehearsed surreptitiously at the home of a cellist, Munther Jamil Hafidh, who taught many of the players at the School of Music and Ballet. And in 1985, during the eight-year war with Iran, two children of the assistant conductor, Abdul Razzak Ibraheem Mahdi, were killed when his house was hit by an Iranian missile.Recent skirmishes have also taken a toll. Rasheed Concert Hall, one of the orchestra's performing spaces, was bombed during the air campaign in the spring. (The orchestra now plays in a spacious air-conditioned hall at the Palace of Conferences.) The second floor of Mr. Sharaf's house was accidentally shelled by American troops during a firefight. His mother was injured, and he was hit by shrapnel in a finger. Omar Hassan Alshikh, who joined the orchestra's cello section in 1991 and began working for the United Nations last April, was seriously injured in the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad in August. He now lives in Amman, Jordan, where he was taken for medical treatment. The United Nations sanctions imposed in 1990, after Iraq invaded Kuwait, and maintained after the gulf war had predictably adverse effects on musical life. Although the Iraqi orchestra played 140 concerts after Mr. Ezzat became conductor, in 1989, it did so under increasing deprivation. The sanctions made it hard to obtain replacement scores, strings, valves and other essential equipment.In addition, talented performers left Iraq for Jordan or Europe.

The orchestra's present ranks include Kurds, Sunni and Shiite Muslims and Assyrian Christians. They also include three women.In June, the orchestra gave its first concert after the war. About 45 musicians played "My Nation," an anthem predating Mr. Hussein's rule. According to press reports, audience members wept as they sang. Since that event, rebroadcast three times on Iraqi television, the orchestra has emerged as a symbol of courage and perseverance through suffering.Meanwhile, another symbol of hope for greater cultural understanding stands at the School of Music and Ballet. Early media reports after the war lamented the destruction of a keethara: an unusual piano with a dual keyboard, one tuned to Western scales, the other to Eastern quarter-tones. Actually, the keethara is intact, damaged but reparable. It will be far more difficult to heal the wounds of the past and sort out the political challenges of the present."Before, if you were not near the government and you did not talk badly about the government, you were safe," Mr. Sharaf said. "Now we can talk freely, but we don't know who is the enemy and who likes or doesn't like this music. But we hope and I think all the Iraqi people think that the future is better."

Barbara Jepson writes regularly about music for The Wall Street Journal.