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Last Updated: Monday, 25 August, 2003, 01:27 GMT 02:27 UK
'Peace' orchestra makes Arab debut
By Sebastian Usher
BBC Rabat correspondent

An orchestra made up of young Israeli and Arab musicians has played its first concert in an Arab country.

Daniel Barenboim talks to young musicians in the Maestranza theatre, Seville
Barenboim wants the orchestra to transcend divides

The West-Eastern-Divan Orchestra played a programme of Mozart and Beethoven pieces in the Moroccan capital, Rabat.

The concert was conducted by the orchestra's co-founder, the Israeli conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim.

Despite heavy security surrounding the event, the concert hall, in the city's Mohammed V Theatre, was full and the musicians received a standing ovation.

Wearing a loose white short and baggy white trousers, Daniel Barenboim introduced his young orchestra to a Moroccan audience that included King Mohammed's sisters and the prime minister.

He said that Morocco's decision to hold the concert made it a pioneer in the Middle East.

But he added that the full aim of the orchestra would only be achieved when it could play in all the countries represented by its musicians.

'Real friendship'

He and the orchestra's co-founder, the Palestinian intellectual Edward Said, have always said that the orchestra is not part of the political programme, but simply an example of productive co-existence.

The 80 musicians, who range in age from 13-26, had their own views.

One Israeli musician, who has been attending Daniel Barenboim's summer workshops since they began five years ago, said he was proud to be part of what he called an historic event.

His Arab colleague Jibran said real friendships had been forged between the nationalities.

But for some, it is a different story.

Several Arab musicians said their motivation was all about working with Daniel Barenboim and not about meeting Israelis.

One Lebanese musician said he was worried about being seen on television in the Arab world sitting next to an Israeli.

Daniel Barenboim conceded that some of the Arab musicians had been afraid to strike up friendships with Israelis and some simply do not want to.

But if he led his musicians in unity to the rousing climax at Beethoven's Third Symphony and to a standing ovation, the power of his vision of a harmonious Arab-Israeli co-existence was, for a moment at least, incontestable.




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