From the first notes of the national anthem, it was clear this performance was about something more than music.
In a city besieged by barbarian hoards, who view musical instruments as blasphemy and concerts as profane, listening to Iraq’s National Symphony Orchestra was an act of dignified defiance.
For more than 850 people, who packed the National Theatre in Baghdad, the sounds of Elgar, List and Stravinsky were a chance to forget the daily drumbeat of car bombs and suicide attacks, which have once again become the city’s unwelcome soundtrack.
“This is the only way we can breathe,” said Naji Hassan, an art student, who was ten years old when the US-led invasion, in 2003, unleashed a decade of violence on Iraq.
Today, it is Islamic State militants who have captured huge swathes of the country’s north and are threatening Iraq with another civil war.
“These concerts make us think we are people, not just numbers and statistics and casualties of war,” said Dr Mustafa Saleh, a dentist from Mansour, an upmarket suburb in the west of the city.
“We are not barbarians,” he added. “The situation is overwhelming. Events are smothering us. This is the only release we have.” (Read more…)