x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

National Day: experience the spirit of the union through music

As part of the 41st National Day Celebrations, the UAE National Symphony Orchestra has prepared a very special event with Emirati and international talent in Abu Dhabi.

The Emirati singer Balqees Al Fathi. Courtesy UAE National Symphony Orchestra
The Emirati singer Balqees Al Fathi. Courtesy UAE National Symphony Orchestra

With guest appearances including the Emirati singer Balqees Al Fathi, the world-renowned Chinese violinist Min Yang and the Scottish tenor John Craig Innes, The National Day Gala is under the musical direction of UAE-based Andrew Berryman.

The 90-minute performance will be held tomorrow at Zayed University, and should have that “wow factor”, according to Berryman.

As the fourth concert for the non-profit UAE National Symphony Orchestra (UAENSO), the gala will also feature a new arrangement of Spirit of the Union, a popular piece during last year’s National Day celebrations.

“Our concerts have a flavour not targeted just at classical music connoisseurs. This music is for the masses. We go through Greek, Italian, Irish pieces, so it’s truly a night of world music exploring many genres,” explains Berryman.

The opening piece will be the brass- and percussion-filled Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland. “Written in 1942, it is still as powerful as it was then and it has that Hollywood feel to it,” says Berryman. “It was inspired by a speech by the US vice-president Henry A Wallace, when he proclaimed the dawning of the century of the common man.”

The second piece is the Czech composer Antonin Dvorák’s Carnival Overture. This is followed by Gabriel’s Oboe, by the Italian film composer Ennio Morricone, taken from the film The Mission, with solos by the UAENSO’s oboist Jerome Broun and the concert master Min.

“We picked Carnival Overture because, having spent three years with the Abu Dhabi Police Band, the two phrases that stuck with me were ‘unity’ and ‘National Day’ and the sense of carnival that comes with it,” says Berryman. “With Gabriel’s Oboe, the piece is so beautiful and we are very lucky to have Min Yang.”

Other highlights include a performance by the Emirati singer Al Fathi, who will perform Spirit of the Union, which was composed by her father, the renowned oud player Ahmed Fathi.

“The song is based on a poem by the Saudi poet Abdul Rahman Al Shemmari, in response to a poem written by the late Sheikh Zayed dedicated to the nation, where he asked them to be equipped with education and knowledge and have a bond with culture,” says Al Fathi. “During rehearsals, Janet [Hassouneh, the founder of the UAENSO] said there will not be a dry eye in the theatre, as images of Sheikh Zayed will also be projected in the background.

“Classical music in the Gulf is still a niche market,” continues Al Fathi. “I plan to take this path internationally because many still believe talent in this area does not exist and I want to help change that. What I will be doing during the concert is unique – I will perform in English, Italian and Arabic. I hope we are able to give something back to the country.”

“Balqees is amazing and she will also be performing a duet with Innes called The Prayer, made famous by Celine Dion,” says Berryman.

The Scottish tenor is also performing a solo made popular by the late giant of Italian opera, Luciano Pavarotti – Nessun Dorma from Puccini’s Turandot.

The audience is also in for a treat with the Riverdance performance, popularised by Irish traditional musicians and dancers. The piece has been arranged by Berryman and Al Fathi will sing the “haunting” opening.

The night will end with four excerpts from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, with the Emirati artists Nabeel Khalfan Al Mehairibi and Sara Ibrahim exhibiting work inspired by it.

• The National Day Gala begins tomorrow at 8pm; there is a 5pm matinee for ladies only. Tickets cost Dh50 to Dh200 and are available through Time Out Tickets, Spinneys Khaladiya and UAENSO. Visit www.UAENSO.org