UAE’s National Symphony Orchestra concert marks a dream come true

During their Friday night concert, the UAE’s National Symphony Orchestra proved that the country has its own musical force to be reckoned with.

The National Symphony Orchestra conductor Andy Berryman, left, and the Emirati soprano Balqees Al Fathi perform at the ABu Dhabi National Theatre. Courtesy NSO
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The dream came true on Friday night for the UAE’s National Symphony Orchestra. For the past two years, their 60 musicians from more than 20 nationalities have pleased audiences by playing film songs and light classical pieces. And now the time had come for “a proper concert”, as the orchestra’s musical director and conductor Andy Berryman told a packed audience at Abu Dhabi National Theatre.

“We usually do concerts without an interval because we thought people would run away and there would be no one left in the second half. We thought we’d mark our second anniversary with a proper, more serious concert, with overtures and many choirs. So please don’t disappear,” said Berry.

During the first half, the graceful Emirati soprano Balqees Al Fathi delivered a sensational performance, proving she can master opera solos just as skilfully as khaliji numbers.

Next in the spotlight was Ioannis Potamousis, the head of keyboard studies at Brighton College, who was playing Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op 43 live for the first time. Rhapsody is considered one of the most difficult piano pieces, but Potamousis made it look effortless.

Next came Carl Orff's cantata Carmina Burana, which gave the four participating choirs and the NSO Youth Chorus a chance to shine.

During the reprise of O Fortuna, which has been used several times as a score in films and television programmes for its rousing power, sparks were almost flying off the violin strings from the energy flowing through the theatre.

The final standing ovation was well deserved for a truly world-class performance. These home-grown musicians showed that the UAE has its own musical force to be reckoned with.

For Janet Hassouneh, the NSO’s founder and executive director, it was an overwhelming moment: “I planned all this in my head and on the computer, but it’s so different when you walk on stage with the 170 people involved in the performance and it’s all transformed into reality.

“I just started to cry. This concert puts us on a whole other level. The dream has come true.”