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16 May 2011 11:28 am

Orchestrating peace mission

JoJo
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The first Doha Festival for Music and Dialogue concluded last night with a stunning performance from the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra under the baton of Argentinian-Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim, who promised to return to Qatar to take part in similar events in the future. A large audience at the Katara Opera House gave a standing ovation to Barenboim and his orchestra, who played beautifully throughout the evening. The performance was the climax of the week’s festival, which included a number of workshops, film screenings and open rehearsal sessions, where the orchestra invited schoolchildren to sit in and get a sense of what playing in an orchestra is like. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (WEDO) is made up of an equal number of Israeli and Arab musicians, as well as a number of players from the rest of the world, and is aimed at promoting peace, tolerance and “understanding of the other.” Founded in 1999 by Barenboim and the late Palestinian scholar, Edward Said, the orchestra plays around the world, and last night was their second performance in Qatar. “I don’t know any other country in the world with the will and the means to actively plan a better future for its people,” said Barenboim, adding “this festival is part of the mission to bring different cultures together to enrich the lives of people in Qatar.” “We are delighted and honoured to have been part of this wonderful adventure, and I have promised to come back in the future,” he added. There are few things more impressive than a top quality orchestra in full flow, and the setting of the Katara Opera House added to the sense of occasion surrounding Barenboim and the WEDO’s performance. Said’s widow, Mariam has been in Doha to participate in the programme, delivering a lecture on her late husband’s work and taking part in other events. On Saturday evening, she was invited on stage to receive a token of appreciation from Katara, and she expressed her thanks to Qatar’s leadership for organising such a festival, as well as her hope to be back in Qatar in the future.