Wednesday, December 13, 2006

INSO E-Newsletter: Episode 16

Bimonthly Newsletter
Of the
IRAQI National Symphony Orchestra (INSO)
Episode 16 August 2003
The 2nd Anniversay
Distributed by Al-Wafaa News Website:

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Dear Subscribers:

This INSO bimonthly newsletter will be celebrating its SECOND anniversary in September. We would like to thank you for your commentary and encouragement and for making it an interesting task.I would like to acknowledge the great efforts of thewriting/editing team, which have been instrumentalin the success of this e-newsletter. Our prayers go to one of the w/e team's members in IRAQ, Munther J.Hafeth, to all musicians of the INSO and to the entirecourageous and patient people of IRAQ.

We would like to know from those of you who live in the USA, Canada and Europe whether you will be willing (Starting in September) to contribute yearly subscription of $10. This will help us pay for the cost of placing all INSO e-newsletters on our website and cover some of the cost for publishing a book on the history of the INSO. Please note that not participating in the yearly dues will not affect your subscription status. But it will be greatly appreciated.Non-subscribers will not receive anymore emails. Ifinterested, please see subscription's simple instructionsbelow.
I wish you a pleasant and a relaxing fall.

Wafaa' Al-Natheema

<The only message that we were able to deliver in our performances was one of survival. That we were able to stay alive through all those years.>

Imad Youssef, INSO violinist living in IRAQ


Inside This Issue:

1. News & Reports
2. History of The INSO by Wafaa' Al-Natheema
3. INSO's "Founders & Early Initiators"


1. News & Reports:

* Thanks to the efforts of Lewis Brinin, a violinist with theFlorida Orchestra, PIRASTRO in Germany and THOMASTICK in Austria have contributed a generous amount of strings to the INSO. They were received by the Institute of Near Eastern & African Studies (INEAS) in Cambridge, MA., which is collecting donations to the INSO and Music & Ballet School inBaghdad. INEAS is still welcoming/receiving donations from various organizations/benefits, working to form a women delegation to take the donation to IRAQ in the fall and organizing another benefit to raise more funds. The BBC will cover the women delegation should they arrive in Baghdad by mid of October and coincide with an INSO performance. More details on donations and the trip to IRAQ will be included in the October and/or December episodes.

* Munther J. Hafeth and Hisham Sharaf of the INSO will be part of the Arabic Music Symposium in Morocco from October 1st to October 10th. Both currently live in Baghdad.

* The Institute of Near Eastern & African Studies receiveda fax on July 9th from Music in the Middle East, an international music council, UNESCO, investigating thepossibilities of inviting the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra(INSO) to Amsterdam, Holland. After debating the dateswhether in November or February, Neil Van Der Linden, ofMusic in the Middle East, decided to work on inviting the INSO in February.

* Beatrice Ohanessian, former INSO pianist and composer, has been recently interviewed on German radio stations by producer/host George Hersch, thanks to Lewis Brinin, a violinist with the Florida Orchestra. These stations were Deutschland Radio Berlin (airs nationwide), WDR Dortmund/Cologne (airs all over Western Germany), and SWR Baden-Baden (airs all over Southwestern Germany).


2. History of the INSO
By Wafaa' Al-Natheema

In documenting the history of the INSO, the decade of the1940s seems to be the period during which the admiration of western classical music inspired its birth. Such admirationwas evident in the live performances that took place featuring symphonies, concertos and others from the Baroque, Classic and Romantic periods. However the INSO was not the first musical entity in Iraq. Several orchestras and conservatories were founded before the spark of activities of the INSO (see this episode's Founders & Early Initiators of the INSO). One such notable institution was The Music Institute, which was established in 1936. Five years later, The Music Institute was renamed The Institute of Fine Arts whereby a Chamber Orchestra was formulated.

Hanna Petros conducted this Orchestra's early performance at the Royal College of Medicine. In an earlier article I wrote for this INSO e-newsletter (September 2002), documenting from a couple of sources that in 1948, The Baghdad Philharmonic Society (BPS) was founded in affiliation with the Institute of Fine Arts. But Munir Allahwerdi, former INSO clarinetist, wrote in an email dated August 22 quoting the Constitution of the BPS as follows:

"Section 1, Article 1; The Society was formed by members of the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad in 1950...." This led me to believe that perhaps 1948 was the unofficial or the non-documented year of the Society's establishment!The BPS, then, formed the Baghdad Symphony Orchestra, which was composed of the Institute's students and teachers aswell as musicians from the Army Band. Sandu Albu, Romanian violin professor, supervised the Baghdad Symphony Orchestra, which gave performances in Baghdad at the hall of the Institute of Fine Arts and at the King Faisal Hall as well as in Kirkuk (North of Iraq). In 1959, the Orchestra became officially known as the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra (INSO), within the Ministry of Guidance. Before 1959, all musicians used to perform on volunteer basis. This is why many sources indicate that the establishment of the INSO was actually in that year. However, majority of this Orchestra's musicians used to perform voluntarily under a different name, so their activities and contributions should be part of the INSO's history.

Due to Iraq's instability during the 1960s, the Orchestra was shut down a couple of times. In 1971, by special efforts of Ms. Lamaan Al-Bekri (of the Ministry of Information) and a joint preparatory committee (M. Hafeth, I. Ad.ham, B. Petros and the late A. Ali), the INSO resumed its activities under the baton of Hans G. Mommer (German Conductor) and began to perform inside and outside of Iraq. The Orchestra reached its glory in the 1970s and early 1980s during which they toured in Lebanon and Russia and numbered as many as fifty-five musicians. Since its early stage in the 1940s, the INSO has had twenty-two (Iraqi and foreign) conductors. The Orchestra did not just perform classical works by European composers, but had also presented works composed by Iraqi, Middle Eastern and foreign musicians.

The list of Iraqi composers includes (but not limited to) Hanna Petros, Farid Allahwerdi, Munther J. Hafeth, Adbul Razzak Al-Azzawi, Beatrice Ohanessian, Munir Bashir, Khalil Ismael, Abdul Amir As-Sarraf, Agnes Bashir, Hussein Qaddouri, Mohammed Amin Izzet, Abdallah Jamal, Zaid Othman and others. Bassim H. Petros, former INSO cellist, quotes Sandu Albu (Conductor, Violinist) saying, "in view of my experience here in Iraq, whenever we think of forming an orchestra, it would - for sure - be made of family member players." The family atmosphere within the Orchestra was evident since the 1940s and can be illustrated in the list below:

- Hanna Petros (Tympani and Bassoon) and sons; Petros Hanna Petros (Trumpet, Corn, Percussions), Sabah Hanna Petros (Clarinet), Bassim Hanna Petros (Cello and Contrabass).

- Fuad Mishu (Clarinet, then Violin), Lewis Mishu (Cello), Nadhim Mishu (Clarinet),

- Munir Allahwerdi (Clarinet, Contrabass) and brother Farid Allahwerdi (Violin, Viola),

- Aram Tajirian (Violin), Onik Tajirian (Clarinet).

The INSO has toured in Russia, Azerbaijan, Lebanon and Jordan. The last tour in Jordan was during the embargo in 1992. The INSO's last and most successful performance before this year's bombing on March 19th was on Christmas Day, 2002. An article (dated December 26) about this concert was featured in the NY Times. Munther J. Hafeth, still viola player of the INSO in Baghdad, once was quoted saying, "my target is to bring the INSO over to the 21st Century." Although the Orchestra made it through the 21st Century, it was not a blossoming entrance due to the embargo and wars and, so it stayed fairly unknown! The hope is to see it perform outside of Iraq and allow it to tell the story of the predicament as well as people's feelings, survival and accomplishments through music. Since I attended a live performance by the INSO in February 1999 in Baghdad, the idea of having the INSO tour the USA has been growing limbs. Of course the INSO is among several ideas that are causing limbs to grow in me, not to mention that the more the wars, bombs and calamity, the more the limbs due to survival and adamancy! I feel like a haunted OCTOPUS!

* Documents by the Ministry of Information
* Constitution of the Baghdad Philharmonic Society
* Munir Allahwerdi
* Bassim H. Petros


3. "Founders & Early Initiators" [Part I]

This is part 1 of the list of Founders & Early Initiators. The alphabetic list includes (but not limited to) Farid Allahwerdi, Munir Allahwerdi, Aram Baboukhian, Hamdi S. Kaddouri, Hagob Keyomjian, Fuad Mishu, Hanna Petros, Petros H. Petros, Sami S. Qassim, Fuad Ridha and Aram Tajirian.

Some of the later initiators were Munther J. Hafeth, Bassim H. Petros and others. In this part, we acknowledge Hanna Petros, Farid Allahwerdiand Munther J. Hafeth.

1. Hanna Petros (1896-1958)
Composer, music educator and the founder of music educationin IRAQ, which included (but not limited to) the Iraqi Army MusicDepartment (1923), the Baghdad Music Conservatory (1936)and the Iraqi Police Music Band (1941).His "Rondo Oriental" was composed in 1937 for piano soloand was presented by the Romanian pianist and pianoinstructor, Julian Hertz, at the conservatory in Baghdad,as well as in Paris, Geneva and London during the 1940s.In the year 1976, the Orchestra's Russian conductor Youri Alieve converted the piece (Rondo Oriental) for string orchestra. It was performed by the INSO in Baghdad, Beruit, Moscow and Amman.Hanna's works included national songs, marshes for WindBand and works for solo violin and piano.

2. Farid Allahwerdi (b. 1924 in Basra- )
A composer of modern music and a member of the International Federation of Composers. He studiedcomposition in Paris, Moscow and New York.His composition "Al-Mansooriyya" symphonic poemaired on Moscow radio in 1958.In 1950, Allahwerdi earned a Diploma in Music, violin, from the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad. Then completed a Master's degree in Music Composition from The Hunter College in NY. For over a decade, he taught musical education, theory and instruments, mainly violin and viola, at the Yarmouk University in Irbid, Jordan.Allahwerdi currently lives and composes in Dublin, Ireland.

3. Munther J. Hafeth (b. 1931 in Baghdad - )
A composer and viola player of the INSO since 1950. Mr. Hafeth joined the Institute of Fine Arts in 1949 and graduated in 1957.His studies in England included interior decoration, viola and composition.One of his earliest compositions, "Dijla River Banks," based on the theme of "Ala Shawati Dijla Mor" song, written for String Quartet. This work was later revised for a string Orchestra by the Hungarian violin instructor & conductor George Man and performed by the INSOin Baghdad and was recorded by Baghdad radio stationin 1974. Other compositions were performed by theINSO during the 1970s and 80s.Hafeth currently lives in Baghdad, IRAQ and continues toperform with the INSO.


Munther J. Hafeth

The INSO Writing/Editing Team:

Munir Allahwerdi, Clarinet Player, Engineer (INSO) [Austria]
Wafaa' Al-Natheema, List Moderator & Concert Tour Organizer [USA]
Agnes Bashir, Pianist, Composer (INSO) [Jordan]
Munther J. Hafeth, Composer, Musician (INSO) [IRAQ]
Nahla Jajo, Violinist, Architect (INSO) [France]
Beatrice Ohanessian, Composer, Pianist (INSO) [USA]
Bassim H. Petros, Cellist, Music Critic (INSO) [New Zealand]
Zaid Esmat Shawket, Violinist, Mathematician (INSO) [France]