Orchestra of Syrian exiles preparing for first performance in Germany

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Some 30 musicians of Syrian origin had a practise session in the north-western German city of Bremen on Saturday in preparation for their first concert next week as an orchestra in exile.

The musicians – all professionals – had arrived from several European countries to rehearse for the Syrian Expat Philharmonic Orchestra’s debut concert to be held in the city on Tuesday.

“Think of a place that you love, of your home,” conductor Martin Lentz said at the rehearsal as he indicated to the ensemble to start playing Felix Mendelssohn’s Son and Stranger overture, a work that aptly addresses themes of foreignness and returning home.

The musicians emphasized that their aim was to show Syria as a nation of culture and not just a devastated, war-torn country.

A Facebook group set up by Raed Jazbeh, a Syrian double bass player living in Bremen, brought the artists together. Some of them have only lived in Europe for a short time since fleeing the war in Syria, others already have a visa and work as established musicians in Europe.

The conservatory in Bremen is lending instruments to those who were not able to bring their instruments to Europe with them.

Tickets for Tuesday’s performance are already sold out.

Although some musicians are still to arrive in Bremen ahead of the concert, leaving the orchestra just three days to rehearse in its entirety, Lentz said he is not nervous.

“Professional orchestras also generally rehearse no more than three times before a performance,” he said.

The Syrian Expat Philharmonic Orchestra is funded by donations and the musicians are at the moment unpaid, although many worked professionally in Syria.

“I would like to change the negative image of Syria and Islam with my music,” violinist Hivron Mirkhan told dpa.

She has lived in Germany for two years and described the country in fluent German as “my second home.”

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