RIYADH: The International Philharmonic Orchestra of Paris, in collaboration with the Saudi national orchestra, dazzled Riyadh on Wednesday with a magical concert called “Voices of Peace.”
The 26 European musicians from the orchestra were led by the ensemble’s founder, Amine Kouider, who is a “UNESCO Artist for Peace.” The concert was organized by the Saudi Music Commission at the Cultural Palace and was held in celebration of Europe Day, part of the European Cultural Month festivities. It was intended as a “unifying event, promoting the values of peace, fraternity and friendship.”
“It was a lovely evening and we’re really lucky to have had this opportunity to see a concert like this. It was a multicultural mix of Arabs and Europeans,” said Soukri Lhesan, a Canadian resident of Riyadh.
“It was so nice to see different countries working together in one musical symphony, and I just love how the performance was called the ‘voices for peace’,” said Susene Sasing, a resident of Riyadh from the Philippines.
“Today we celebrate this day with great joy. We share this with our friends and our fellow Saudi musicians who were kind enough to welcome us nobly, and with such warmth,” Algerian-born Kouider told Arab News. “They played our music with us and we, of course, played their music with them. We were very delighted that there was this artistic and musical fusion.”
“Voices of Peace” brought together 20 musicians from the Saudi National Orchestra, 30 singers from the Saudi Arabia National Choir and the members of the International Philharmonic Orchestra to perform together, the first time that the Saudi orchestra and choir have performed on stage with European classical musicians.
The concert included music by Bizet, Offenbach, Mozart and Verdi and surprised the audience with a Saudi take on the “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven, the anthem of the EU, which was sung in French, Arabic and German.
“I really liked the ‘Ode to Joy’, it’s a classic song that we all grew up with and I really liked the Arab take on it, and then the classic, European take that we know,” said Katherine Murphy, an American resident of Riyadh. “It was just cool to see everyone having a fun time together and being bonded by the music.”
This celebration coincided with France’s Presidency of the EU, which runs until June 2022, adding a special meaning to the event.
“I loved the intermingling and intertwining of all the different nationalities coming together to create, beautiful music together. In addition to world peace, we can have world peace of music,” said Anna Smith, who was visiting from the US.
To mark Europe Day, the Embassy of France and the Alliance Française in Saudi Arabia, in partnership with Ardian and Egis, also invited the International Philharmonic Orchestra of Paris to perform in the amphitheater of the Batterjee Medical College in Jeddah on Thursday.
In attendance were Ludovic Pouille, the French ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Laurent Germain, group CEO of Egis Group, and François-Aïssa Touazi, group CEO of Ardian.