4 February 2009
Classical music lovers helped rebuild the lives of those affected by the Israeli offensive in Gaza when attending a Syrian National Symphony Orchestra concert performed at the Damascus Opera House on 3 February.
Spearheaded by Echo, a non-governmental, cultural musical arts society, the concert combined the talents of the renowned Syrian National Symphony Orchestra, the Military Band and the Choir. The choir performed national songs based on the work of Syrian and Palestinian poets, while the orchestra played a variety of pieces by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Chopin.
The crowd was engaged and enthusiastic. They clapped sporadically at first, then becoming more insistent, encouraging the orchestra to enter. The clapping took on a thunderous note as the orchestra and the military band took centre stage.
The Syrian National Symphony Orchestra’s conductor Missak Baghboudarian said: "The devastation in Gaza takes my breath away. I have no words to describe the sadness that I feel for the people in Gaza. I wish there were other ways to express our feelings, but we are musicians and it is through music that we get people involved."
The concert was part of the fundraising campaign launched by UNRWA and the Syrian civil society groups on 12 January for the children of Gaza. The campaign announcement came two days after the conclusion of the meeting dubbed the First Ladies’ Gaza initiative, which took place in Istanbul and was attended by, among others, Queen Rania, Asma Assad, Sheikha Mozah, and Wafaa Sleiman. Under the appeal, the first ladies committed to launching campaigns in their countries to support UNRWA’s work in Gaza.
"The solidarity of the Syrian people with the Palestinians in Gaza has been clear from day one of the siege of Gaza. This campaign is a response to this call from the Syrian people to express their support and love for the Palestinian people", Panos Moumtzis, Director of UNRWA Affairs said. "It has been a very moving experience. People have given generously, with conviction and deep feeling, and with trust that UNRWA could be relied on to deliver their offerings to those Palestinians most in need of them," Moumtzis cited. "Music joins people‘s souls, and when this connection happens, peace, love and compassion can fill the hearts of the audience."
The concert ended with the Syrian anthem and received a standing ovation, raising US$110,000 in support of the UNRWA campaign for the Children of Gaza.
Text by Hala Mukhles
Photos by the Opera House, Damascus