Cyprus Mail

Music stands by refugees

The Cyprus Symphony Orchestra, under the auspices of the UNHCR Office in Cyprus, will perform a Refugee Solidarity concert on Wednesday at Phaneromeni Square in Nicosia to mark World Refugee Day.

The concert, under the artistic direction of Jens Georg Bachmann and with guitar soloist George Nouneh, will feature pieces by Kareem Roustom, Nouneh and Ludwig Van Beethoven.

Through the concert, the orchestra will stand with refugees because “with more than 65 million people fleeing war and persecution this is a time that refugees need us more than ever,” organisers said.

The orchestra hopes that through its music, members of the audience will be able to contemplate ways in which we can overcome indifference or fear and embrace the idea of inclusion.

The works of Roustom are very relevant to the theme as he was born in Syria but moved with his family to America when he was 13-years-old. There he learnt the musical traditions of the Near East and also of America, as he was trained in western concert music and jazz. The orchestra will play Dabke, a folk-dance native to the Levant, the name of which is derived from the Arab word meaning ‘stamping of the feet’ and widely performed at weddings and other joyous occasions.

Nouneh is a Syrian refugee who now lives in Cyprus. He is a self-taught guitarist who composes and plays his own music although he can’t read or write music. He studied English literature and has worked in sales, finance and marketing, yet music is the great love of his life. “Music has kept me sane throughout some difficult times and a strong will to survive,” he said.

Of Beethoven’s seven symphonies, the orchestra has chosen to perform his second in D major (Op. 36). It is a symphony in four movements which was written between 1801 and 1802 – at a time when he was realising that his deafness may be incurable. The work was premiered at the Theatre an der Wien in Vienna on April 5, 1803, and was conducted by the composer. The piece is considered to be one of the last works of Beethoven’s so-called early period and, although it is arguably the least well-known, it is filled with the composer’s musical jokes and it shocked the sensibilities of many of his contemporaries.

UNHCR was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1950 to help millions of refugees in the aftermath of World War II and it continues to assist in solving refugee problems on every continent, earning two Nobel Peace Prizes in the process – in 1954 and 1981. The organisation works to ensure that everybody has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another country. In Cyprus, UNHCR opened an office in 1974 at the request of the government and the United Nations Secretary-General to organise and coordinate humanitarian assistance for the displaced populations in both communities. Today, UNHCR’s primary objective is to assist the government to further develop and improve its asylum legislation, procedures and capacities for a refugee protection system fully in line with international standards.

Refugee Solidarity Concert
Live performance by the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra. June 20. Phaneromeni Square, Nicosia. 8.30pm. Free. Tel: 22-463144

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