The Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra
Milan's La Scala, the Theatre des Champs Elysees in Paris and Washington's Kennedy centre, just 3 iconic music venues that have enthusiastically played host to Qatar's Philharmonic Orchestra since its formation in October 2008.
Promoting Qatar internationally as a centre of musical and cultural excellence, however, is just one aspect of this Orchestra's mission, as Christine Chammas and Mathilde Agoustari of the Public Relations and Marketing Division eagerly explained when I met with them. For as the programme notes for the Orchestras first anniversary concert in November 2009 articulate:
'This young and dynamic orchestra was created to enhance community and culture within Qatar and the region, while bringing a message of peace to the world via the union of eastern and western music.'
Under the patronage of Qatar Foundation, the Orchestra has lost no time in setting about fulfilling these ideals. Regular concerts at the Philharmonic's present venue at Qatar's Aspire Zone Ladies Club are attracting a growing audience drawn by interpretations of the great works by such internationally renowned guest conductors as Dmitrij Kitajenko, James Gaffigan, and Luis Remartinez; participation in Qatar's wider cultural fraternity is expanding, highlighted by the Orchestra performing on the opening night of the Tribecca Film Festival; and the call for private recitals and chamber concerts continues to grow.
The Orchestra's mission to 'enhance community' also gathers pace within, as an increasing number of local nationals become actively involved in its administration; and when a design for the lady musicians' concert dresses was commissioned, it was the students of Qatar Virginia Commonwealth University's Faculty of Design who were invited to create the stunning black and gold motif gowns that so charm audiences.
Above all, though, it is to the youth of Qatar that the Orchestra is seeking to reach out. Dedicated family and children performances are now a feature and a schools programme, introducing youngsters to this rich classical form, continues to evolve.
The Birth of the Orchestra
So how was the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra conceived? Perhaps the real answer to that question lies in Qatar's readiness to host cultural events from across the world. So, some 2 years in the formation, it was to the internationally acclaimed Lebanese born musician and humanitarian Marcel Khalife that Qatar Foundation turned, inviting him to assemble an orchestra that would realise the aspirations of its visionary founders. Fittingly it was Marcel's own composition, 'Arabian Concerto', commissioned specifically for the occasion, that was the centrepiece of the Philharmonic's inaugural concert in October 2008.
One year on, the Orchestra now comprises 101 musicians, drawn from some 30 countries. Each is a master of his or her own specialist instrument, ranging from the mellow sensuality that is the violin, to the robust vigour of the horns. Most of these musicians are still only in their 20's and 30's and it is this youthfulness which defines the Orchestra's vitality and ambition.
Leading them, the Philharmonic has recently appointed maestro extraordinaire Nader Abbassi to be its permanent Director of Music and Principal Guest Conductor. Nader's Egyptian roots, combined with his familiarity with European classical and contemporary music, provide a perfect fusion for the blend of musical styles that is at the heart of the Orchestra's mission. So how apposite, that to celebrate the first anniversary, Nader should have directed the opening piece, entitled 'Doha Secrets Symphony'. The creation of Qatari composer Haamed Naama, this stirring work was dedicated to His Highness the Emir's vision of the future of Qatar.
With a series of international tours behind it and with the number of its 'friends' now exceeding 3000, the immediate future for the Qatar Philharmonic is an exciting one. More tours of major world centres are planned and a move from the Orchestra's current home to a permanent, purpose built, venue is eagerly anticipated. Ultimately the great dream of the Orchestra's sponsors is for Doha to become home to an Academy of Music, from which future generations of gifted local musicians will emerge.
An Evening with the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra
For those unfamiliar with orchestral music, an evening spent with the Qatar Philharmonic will be an introduction to a world of enchantment. One in which our senses and emotions are enriched, whether through the troubling complexity of a Mozart concerto, the melancholia of a Beethoven Symphony or the sheer joyfulness of Tchaikovsky's music for ballet.
Listen to the haunting sound of the Adhan, the Muslim Prayer Call.