What an amazing day! Breakfast alone in the hotel buffet, with tasteful romantic middle-Eastern songs playing on the TV (so many people singing into cell phones in these music videos...!).
The five minute walk to the Academy of Arts is past the headquarters of one of the main Kurdish political parties. Friendly waves from the machine-gun-wielding guards. At the Academy of Arts, I walked into the end of a meeting with the head of the Academy, a political appointee. Final details were being settled, including our use of the venue tomorrow - which is great, since we've got some more rehearsing to do!
Currently, the Chamber Orchestra is five violins, one viola, and three cellists. It'll probably expand to a more normal nine, three, four and one, over the next few days as more students arrive from Kirkuk and Erbil. (The intermediate orchestra has about 40 members.) Once a few of the players were ready, we started rehearsing, with interruptions for seating auditions as more musicians came in. It's possibly a little harrowing to audition in front of your peers, but the students are pretty relaxed here.
If ever there was reason not to stop in rehearsal, it's this - even measure numbers sometimes need to be translated into Kurdish and Arabic, often more than once!
We started work on the last movement of Piotr Szewczyk's "A Journey Within," commissioned by the Young Musicians Orchestra back in 2005, practicing the groove. Mostly we rehearsed Mozart's "Eine kleine," and the Vivaldi Guitar concerto, which we'll perform with the guitar teacher here, Susan McDonald.
There are other collaborative possibilities on the horizon - more soon!
Smooth flights, and we were greeted at the airport by three of the older students, veterans of the program, meeting our flight as it arrived around 3am. waiting in the parking lot for the last of the luggage, we talked about repertoire and I tried a couple of Kurdish words...
We all have SIM cards, and a detailed memo - auditions later today, and rehearsals begin in the late afternoon!
It's 4:30am now, the sun is rising, and I'm in my hotel room. Time to sleep.
I have no intention of this being a "flights-taken" kind of blog. But stopping in Amsterdam, I'm reminded of the amazing tour I got to play in, back in 1998. The Geminiani Orchestra (from Melbourne), led by our indefatigable Dutch conductor Marco van Pagee, performed concerts in Dubrovnik, Mostar, Split, Neuburg (Austria), and at the Concertgebouw here in Amsterdam.
It was an inspiring experience, which I'm very grateful for. I'll never forget playing the first concert in Mostar after the war there. Bullet-holes in buildings, but an audience from Both sides of the river, plus the NGO and foreign peace-keepers. Music can bring communities together in amazing ways. I hope we do more of that, this next two weeks in Iraq, with students from across the country!
Most of the music I'm bringing is assembled, a new suitcase gotten, the weather checked, and a promise made to my college President to stay safe and blog about this experience! I'm excited.
I leave Tuesday night (it's currently Saturday), flying to Sulymaniyah, in Norther Iraq, via Amsterdam & Istanbul. I'm looking forward to meeting new friends, and also catching up with Bruce Walker, a good friend from my time at the Monteux School in Maine (very different weather!).
New to blogging, will try to be pithy but regular.