The Beethoven Festival in Bonn, Germany is not a place for amateurs and so to stand on the festival program is a great honour. This honour has been given to a new orchestra, The National Youth Orchestra of Iraq which has recently been formed after the musicians auditioned for places in the orchestra on YouTube. The idea behind the orchestra was to bring together the traditional enemies, Kurds and Arabs, in Iraq. The orchestra was the brainchild of Paul MacAlindin, a Scot based in Germany, who is now the NYOI musical director.
There are many questions behind such an initiative such as can music really bring people together? The answer to that one seems to be that yes, it can. In one of the promotional videos made about the orchestra, you hear one of the players talking about how you could feel the tensions in the room at the beginning but that by now, the orchestra plays as a team and that the players trust each other.
Another question is why western music? Perhaps in the end it is more neutral to play Western music than to have to choose between the two ethnic traditions? The players in most cases were self taught and played on poor quality instruments. In order to be considered for a place they had to upload a video of their playing to YouTube so that Paul MacAlindin back in Germany could put together the orchestra.
The final big question is how the orchestra can afford to travel to Germany and the answer here is of course donations. So if you want to support this deserving initiative then you can find out how on their website.
Our podcast Absolutely Intercultural, has been supporting the orchestra, exploring different aspects of it through some of the people involved over the last few weeks. I am always heartened by stories like these about overcoming conflict and am pleased that we were able to be a part of it albeit in a very minor capacity.
Ways to support “The National Youth Orchestra of Iraq”: