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Rehearsing with the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq (3) | Beethoven | Deutsche Welle | 16.09.2011

09/10/2011 17:56

Beethovenfest | 16.09.2011

Rehearsing with the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq (3) DW Bettina Kolb travelled to Arbil, Iraq to accompany the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq during rehearsals for the Beethovenfest. This is part three of her blog about the experience.

Suspense gathers ahead of the orchestra's first performance in Arbil

Practice, practice and more practice, from 9 am until late in the night. But today conductor Paul MacAlindin is visibly upset with the orchestra. The first violins are too slow, and percussionist Mohammed has missed his entry once again. Downtrodden faces all around, instruments resting on knees as composer Ali Authman nervously paces back and forth, right and left. The composer grabs a violin, plays the rhythm, then pats violinist Alan encouragingly on the shoulders. Tomorrow is the big concert in Saad Palace in Arbil. "Oh well, by the Beethovenfest, they'll be playing much better. They still have two more weeks," says Authman. But the trip to Germany has put everyone on pins and needles. The Kurdish culture ministry keeps delaying an approval to let the Kurdish musicians, nearly all of whom work as music teachers under the culture ministry's auspices, travel to Germany for two weeks. "We need their approval by tomorrow," says Paul MacAlindin, passing a hand wearily through his graying hair. "We are supposed to fly out on Saturday, and no one works here on Fridays. I just don't know‌" One bright spot, though: the culture minister is coming to the concert. Maybe the music will convince him. Big worries for the conductor - from tempo and musicianship to visa arrangement

During a brief pause, I chat with Awder, a cellist from Sulaimaniya.

"My former cello teacher is actually a violin player and had no idea about cello. I watched other players online and basically taught myself everything," she explains. "Starting in 2008, I had a teacher from the USA, and now I'm here for the second time at the summer camp. It's a huge opportunity for me. And the tutors are great. They give us so much time and are so patient.",,6620169,00.html

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Rehearsing with the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq (3) | Beethoven | Deutsche Welle | 16.09.2011

09/10/2011 17:56

During lunch, Awder glances lovingly at a musician named Harem. They've been married for ten months. He is a flute player in the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq and a music teacher. "No, we don't know each other from the school," laughs Awder, as I ask whether sparks first flew during one of the orchestra's rehearsals.

The music goes on into the night long after rehearsalsI

wander through the hotel. Violins are sounding from room 208, and in 207, the violas. In 210, Johnny from Manchester is sitting with Murtada from Sulaymaniyah, who doesn't speak any English, and Frand from Baghdad, who patiently translates the lessons Johnny wants to impart. But really a translation isn't necessary. Johnny is using all kinds of body language and mimicking the trumpet sounds he wants to hear. Horn player Ali from Baghdad has the fortune of having a tutor all to himself, Sarah, who hails from London. She sends him to the other side of the large conference room to play the same passage two times in a row with differing intensity. "Do you hear the difference? You have to exaggerate. Because at the concert, the grandma sitting in the very last row is going to want to hear what you're playing, okay?" says Sarah. Ali nods, takes his horn and gives it everything he's got. He's already risked a lot for his passion for music. The Baghdad resident comes from a strictly religious neighbourhood. Music is dangerous there, since the conservative residents strictly reject it. As such, Ali sometimes practices underneath a towel, an improvised sound absorber. The neighbors aren't supposed to hear that he's a musician. Some of the other orchestra members have to hide their instruments in trash bags when they head out into the streets. Even though all of them stress that the country has become more safe in the last one to two years, real security doesn't exist yet. For my TV report, I film a few scenes from the bazaar in Arbil - the labyrinth of narrow streets and mountains of goodies. I walk to a tea stand where several old men with furrowed faces, turbans and harem pants are drinking strange teas. I'm allowed to join them.,,6620169,00.html

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Rehearsing with the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq (3) | Beethoven | Deutsche Welle | 16.09.2011

09/10/2011 17:56

"Now why is a woman with a camera traveling alone through Kurdistan? After all, there are religions that forbid that‌" says one. All eyes turn to me - friendly but with unconcealed curiousity. My Kurdish producer and translator Fakhri explains that in Europe, women do that kind of thing. A well-meaning nod and murmurs follow. I smile at the men, somewhat embarrassed. Then I head further through the tangle of the bazaar and then out again into the blazing sun. And finally up the steep hill leading to the citadel that looks out over the city. Millennia old some even say 7,000 years. Nearby houses, at least a few hundred years old, have fallen into disrepair and are set for renovation. It's a cultural heritage that everyone here is proud of. I sink onto a little wall in the shadow of a house and listen to the wonderful voice of a muezzin as he leads the call to prayer from a minaret. Above me, an enormous Kurdish flag with the sun in the middle wafts in the breeze.

A viel from the hill - looking down from the citadel at the ancient city of Arbil

Scroll down to stream performances and video from the rehearsals in Arbil.

Author: Bettina Kolb / gsw Editor: Rick Fulker,,6620169,00.html

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