Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Best Use of Taxpayer Money in Iraq Yet!

Iraqi National Orchestra Re-Emerges, Visits Washington in December

The U.S. administrator in Iraq on Friday hailed efforts of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra to recapture a segment of normal life for tense Baghdad, still suffering from widespread insecurity and lack of basic services.

Once Iraq's pride, the orchestra survived several wars and Saddam Hussein's brutal dictatorship. Its musicians _ Shiite, Sunni, Kurdish, Christian and Armenian _ persevered through the looting and unrest that followed the regime's collapse.

As they practiced Grieg's 'Morning Mood' from Peer Gynt, for a concert in Washington with the National Symphony on Dec .9, at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the artists said they hope for better days.

"Freedom has come, I can now speak openly what's on my mind," said oboe player, Taleen Shehranian, 23, an Iraqi Armenian. "But other things are not so good, we need more security. I hope that day will come, too." L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator, met the musicians Friday after returning from talks this week in Washington on ways to speed up the transfer of power to an Iraqi-led government amid increased insurgent attacks against coalition forces.

"Your appearance now has a broader significance than ever before, as we face terrorist attempts to stop Iraq returning to normal," Bremer told the orchestra.

"All across Iraq people are working hard to return the country to normal," Bremer said. "You play a very important role in that message, showing that ... none of us will be intimidated by the terrorists and former regime members." In June, the symphony orchestra gave its first concert since Saddam's ouster, playing patriotic songs that predated the former dictator.

Bremer also welcomed the 63-member orchestra to their "new home" at the Baghdad Convention Center. Previously, the artists had no concert hall of their own but practiced in a stuffy downtown building without air conditioning and lightning.

  • Read Story @ Naharnet Newsdesk


  • Unfortunately, all is not well, the Convention Center is part of the U.S.-guarded compound of former palaces. It is partitioned from the rest of the city by concrete walls, rolls of razor wire, and sandbag bunkers. The musicians have to wait in long lines to pass security searches for weapons.

    Still, "Peer Gynt" deserves an airing any old time.

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