Wednesday, December 13, 2006

INSO E-Newsletter: Episode 15

Bi-Monthly Newsletter
Of the
IRAQI National Symphony Orchestra (INSO)
Episode 15 June 2003
Distributed by Al-Wafaa NewsWebsite:

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In This Episode:

1. News
2. INSO Report by Zaid Esmat Shawkat
3. Music Schools and Musicians of Baghdad -- A Personal Account by Agnes Bashir
4. Jawad Saleem Part II: A Personal Accountby Munir Allahwerdi
5. In Memory of Daoud Al-Qaisy by Bassim Petros

1. NEWS:

* The IRAQI National Symphony Orchestra (INSO) gave a successful performance in Baghdad on June 12 at the French Cultural Center. Another concert was performed on June 27th, which was coveredon CNN. More details about this performance are provided in a report by Zaid Esmat Shawkat and included in this episode (below)

* We are pleased to welcome composer and pianist Agnes Bashir, and former violinist and (INSO's) previous concert master, Zaid Esmat Shawkat, to the writing/editing team of this bimonthly e-newsletter. Agnes Bashir, I.O.M., aside from her long and important involvement at the Music and Ballet School in Baghdad, has accompanied the INSO on the piano and has composed numerous pieces for the Orchestra to perform. She currently resides in Jordan. Her "April Festivities" composition was the talk of people who attended the Cambridge benefit on Friday, June 27th. More details on this event appear below. Zaid Esmat Shawkat is a graduate of the school of Music and Ballet in Baghdad in 1982. He has been performing with the INSO on the violin since 1983. Shawkat left IRAQ to France early this year to pursue his Ph.D. in mathematics.

* On June 14 (2003), Nahla Jajo, one of the INSO's former violinists who currently resides in France, and pianist Abbas Ali Abood performed a concert organized by the Board of Archaeological Museums of Lyons. The program included a solo piano recital and piano and violin duet recital of Oriental music. The Archaeological Museum of Lyons used to work with the Baghdad Museum (2000-2003)

* The Institute of Near Eastern & African Studies (INEAS) and Music For A Cause cosponsored a Jazz concert featuring Bob Sinicrope and Ben Stepner in a benefit for the IRAQI National Symphony Orchestra (INSO) on Friday, June 27th. Over seventy people attended the event, which was well organized and very successful thanks to Judy Gerratt of Music For A Cause, a violinist from the Hayden and Handel Society. The event was publicized in Phoenix and theBoston Globe. An article about the event, Wafaa' Al-Natheema and the INSO appeared in both Cambridge Chronicle and the Newton Tab on Wednesday, June 25. At the conclusion of the Jazz evening, Agnes Bashir's composition "April Festivities" (which was performed by the INSO in the early 1980s) was listened to by the audience from a cassette tape. It was admired by many in the audience and some wished they could hear it performed live! Both Judy Garrett and Wafaa'Al-Natheema plan to organize another major event with famous musicians to raise more funds and collect more musical instruments and parts. Such an event may include former INSO musicians living abroad.

2. The INSO in Baghdad
Reported by Zaid Esmat Shawkat from Paris

The INSO has been preparing for its first after-war major concert. The Orchestra is back to regular rehearsals by its members who are graduate of the Academy of Music, Institute of Fine Arts and the Music and Ballet School. They performed in the "Palace of Conferences Hall" on the 27th of this month. The program included:
1- W.A.MOZART (1756-1791), Symphony (no.40 KV 550)
2- G.BIZET (1838-1875), extracts from "CARMEN"
3- H.G.MOMER (Year unavailable), "On the Palm Trees" (from the Iraqi Folklore)
4- A.R. Al-AZZAWI (1942-), "Voices of the Wilderness".
Conductor: A.R. AL-AZZAWI.
Additionally, the Orchestra had contacted the "Saraievo Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra" for a joint work in the middle of September. Communications are taking place with famous conductor, Zubin Mehta to lead this joint musical venture, said Hisham Sharaf, the INSO director. Sharaf also indicated that some musicians, who left the country before the war and due to the UN/US sanctions, are ready to get back to join the Orchestra. One example is Mohammed O. Siddiq, the conductor of the Royal National Orchestra of Jordan.


3. Music Schools and Musicians of Baghdad --A Personal Account
by Agnes Bashir

I would like to remember my arrival in Baghdad in 1968 and my involvement with the musical life and activities which existed at that time. I had just earned my Master's Degree in "Analyses of Tone Poems by Richard Strauss" Four of us who studied in Moscow: Fuad Al-Mashta (flute), Husam Yakub (flute), Fikri Bashir (violinist, my husband) and myself were young, enthusiastic and eager to create new projects in Baghdad. We started a piano quartet: Flute, violin, cello and piano. For the Cello part, we invited Hussein Qadduri. Later, this quartet became part of the INSO. During this part of the late 1960s, the INSO was inactive. So the reestablishing of the Orchestra began by initiative of Munther Jamil Hafeth, Bassim Petros, Assad Mohammad Ali and others. Rehearsals were taking place at Munther's house, which had a very big hall. The enthusiasm and ingenuity of many musicians gave birth to many cultural events in this historical city. I was very lucky to be part of this. In 1968, the Musical School was founded by Aziz Ali as a public school. Many of us became involved in it as well as three Russian experts. After a while the school became a very important part of the INSO: Many of its graduates became INSO members and the best ones were honored to perform as soloists in some of its concerts. Lately I was involved with the INSO as a composer when I started to write music combining western and eastern traditions.

4. Jawad Saleem Part II -- A Personal Account
by Munir Allahwerdi

I have been strongly urged by friends to write about the people I knew and about what it was like in Baghdad during the 1940s and 1950s, a period in which the arts and literature as well as the music were in a state of flux trying to break out from their centuries-dormant state looking for new directions in the larger world; be it France, Germany, Russia or England.About the people I knew, perhaps the dearest to me was Jawad Saleem. Decades elapsed without my writing and publishing a word about him. I have no excuse except that I considered myself not eligible to contribute about his memory. I am neither a writer nor a painter. But Nizar Saleem, Jawad's brother, wouldn't accept my reasoning and insisted on my participation in describing that period and Jawad's role in it.

Nizar made such remarks when we met in an Iraqi Embassy reception in Helsinki during the late 1970s/early 1980s. I remember him saying, "if you want to be fair to Jawad's memory, you have to write whatever you can about your relation with him. Munir, you owe it to him." I promised Nizar to fulfill his wish. But to my profound sorrow he did not live long to see me accomplish that promise. During the last two decades of Jawad's life (the forties and fifties), other great artists appear on the horizon, some within his immediate family such as his brother Nizar, his sister Nazeeha, and his wife Lorna as well as others like Faiq Hassan, Hafith Ed-Duroubi, Shakir Hassan and Khalid Er-Rahhal.

Characterizing the same period, there were parallel movements in literature, the theater and music which were going on with vigor. In the field of music, a group of "crazy" enthusiasts (including myself) none born into a musical family (except the sons of Hanna Petros), and who began learning music, fell in love with classical music, studied with or without proper guidance from available teachers and practiced against protestations of their families and neighbors with nothing standing in their way, suddenly appeared in musical Baghdad performing chamber music and orchestral concerts.They began to perform in Baghdad Hayden's, Mozart's, Beethoven's and Schubert's Trios, Quartets, Quintets and Symphonies before having ever seen any similar live performances in their life. Some of those instrumentalists such as Vartan Manoukian, Haik Balaian and Beatrice Ohannesian, after a period of studies abroad, even performed in world capitals. In appreciation of the remarkable work done by the young musicians who helped in the establishment of the Baghdad Symphony Orchestra and in bringing classical music to the Iraqi audience, Jawad Saleem drew pencil sketches of those of us who were available at the time including Sami Qassim, Fuad Ridha and myself to name a few. Free Thinking and tradition challenge were what united me with Saleem. This union was embodied in our love for classical music and in performing it on our instruments; the clarinet and the guitar.
Jawad never compromised traditional/national art by his devotion to the universal expression. In his book, Shakir Hassan Al-Saeed devoted a good deal of thinking to this particular aspect of Jawad's works. He explained Jawad's universality as follows: (I am translating a paragraph from his book in Arabic)

"Jawad Saleem, as the rest of his generation of the 1950s suffered from the psychological and economic burden of War World II and its aftermath, was driven by the sincere desire to escape imperialism and reactionary mentality, dreamt of the social well-being and the international cultural awareness.Here, the "Other" becomes his preferred topic represented by the human being. His conviction in the importance of the human being lead him to take a special interest in humanity and thus the importance of observing it from all possible angles. Saleem's indulgence in European and World arts and in their non-visual arts prepared him to pose the question: How would he go about taking care of the humanitarian aspects of his art in both the international and national sense simultaneously? Then how to incorporate inputs from all resources into his relation with his environment? " End of Quote

By stating "his environment," Shakir Hassan was referring to the present as well as to the periods of Sumer, Babylon, Assyria and the Arab/Islamic eras and their artistic and cultural heritage. Saleem showed deep interest in local folklore and tremendously loved symphonic classical music. He preferred Mozart over Beethoven.As for the Hurriya (or freedom) Monument, Jawad explained to me the enormity of the task of accepting the proposal of General Abdul Kareem Qassim. He did not want his art to be tied to politics. We had a brief discussion during which I reminded him of the example of Verdi's composing of the opera Aida, which despite its political circumstances remained a great work in the Italian and human heritage. But he explained to me how much he admired Qassim and his sincerity toward the people of Iraq and how it would be difficult for him to decline Qassim's request to compose and implement the project. Saleem gave me a photo print of a composition in black mud relief which, as I believed, it would include the main parts of the composition still fermenting in his mind, and signed "Jawad Saleem, Baghdad," six and a half years before the July 1958 revolution. In this composition, the central figure is the same man who appears in the Hurriyya monument dressed as a soldier was presented as an almost naked poor farmer struggling in the agricultural field without iron bars, where his posture as a hard working farmer, is the same one who is dressed as soldier freeing his country from poverty and all what the 1958 revolution aspired to achieve. After taking a few lessons from me on the contrabass, Jawad joined the INSO as a contrabass player. He was a great supporter of the INSO.

5. In Memory of Daoud Al-Qaisy
by Bassim Petros

Daoud Al Qaisy was working with Munther Jamil Hafidh andmyself at the music Dept. of Baghdad Radio and TV during the mid 1970s. Further, he was my neighbor in Baghdad before moving into his house near the Technology University. His two sons and daughter studied at the Music and Ballet School. He was very friendly with all artists, and assisted them in many aspects, especially with regard to releasing many of them from the army service. In his capacity as a head of The Iraqi Artists Union (Naqaaba), he participated in every musical conference which was being annually held in Baghdad and traveled to certain European and Arab countries to conclude bilateral artistic agreements. Daoud was a very kind person and friendly with all.
Every artist knew him well. His assassination in May 2003 was a tragic loss. He will be remembered by all those who knew him.


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]