FEATURE: EGYPT’S BLIND FEMALE ORCHESTRA STUNS AUDIENCE, GAINS WORLD FAME

CAIRO, Egypt, The audience, at one of the halls of Cairo Opera House, was stunned by the performance of an orchestra of about 40 blind female musicians. They couldn’t help applauding, cheering and sometimes whistling after each piece played.

It is not the first time that the Chamber Orchestra of the Cairo-based Al-Nour Wal Amal (meaning Light and Hope in Arabic) Association, performed at the most prestigious house of music in Egypt, since the association’s music institute was established in 1961, when all the musicians were little children.

“I love classic music and I adore Al-Nour Wal Amal orchestra. They are literally so excellent and they feel so much for what they play. I enjoyed every one of the many concerts I attended,” said Heba Mostafa, a lady in her 30’s and one of the audience at the Opera House.

The performance was held before the White Cane Day, that falls on Oct 15 every year, to raise world awareness on blindness and the contribution of the blind and visually impaired people to their societies.

Shaimaa Yahiya, a 33-year-old visually impaired violinist, charmed the audience by playing her solo part of one of the symphonies presented by the Chamber Orchestra during the concert. “My relationship with the orchestra started 27 years ago, when I joined Al-Nour Wal Amal Association as a student,” the violinist told Xinhua, during a rehearsal before the performance.

After graduating from a language college, Yahiya became an English teacher at Al-Nour Wal Amal and continued as a veteran member of the orchestra. “Before each concert, we were in a state of emergency, with intensified rehearsals, as if it is our first concert, although we have toured the world with our orchestra,” she continued.

Her friend, Shahinaz Salah, a contrabass player in her late 20’s, said, she started playing contrabass 20 years ago and that the warm reception of audience everywhere was a main motivation for the orchestra’s success. “The warm welcome we receive sometimes move us to tears,” Salah told Xinhua the night before the performance at the Opera House. “We held performances in several countries across the world, the last of which was China, where the audience impressed us with their appreciation,” said the player.

Mohamed Saad Basha, the conductor leading the Chamber Orchestra, spent hours of rehearsal with the musicians, the evening before the opera performance, but he said he didn’t face any obstacles or challenges while dealing with them over the past six years.

“The girls are very talented, devoted and punctual. They memorise Braille music notes, as well as, my instructions by heart,” the Conservatoire professor told Xinhua, adding that, they are the only orchestra of blind female musicians in the world. “They impressively played a whole opera show of two acts while dancers and actors performed on stage, at grand halls in Egypt and France, which is not easy at all,” Basha said.

Founded in 1954, Al-Nour Wal Amal Association provides primary, preparatory and secondary education for blind girls, and the association’s music institute was established in 1961, in cooperation with the Higher Institute for Music, known as the Conservatoire.

The orchestra has performed in 31 countries around the world, the first being Austria in 1988, and the last being China in 2017. They have made trips to the United States, Canada, Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Hungary, Greece, India, Japan and several Arab states, including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

“We have another two concerts in the coming two months, one at the Embassy of Belgium in Cairo and another at a world youth forum in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh, that will be attended by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi,” said Nagat Radwan, executive director of Al-Nour Wal Amal’s music institute.

The Egyptian president hailed and honoured the orchestra, after they performed during an event he attended in Mar. Following the president’s praise, the orchestra finally become well known in Egypt, after years of being more popular abroad than at home, said Amal Fikry, vice president of Al-Nour Wal Amal Association.

The orchestra, which started with 15 girls more than four decades ago, has now boasted over 60 musicians, with 35 in the senior orchestra that toured the world and 27 others in the junior one.

“The association is generally supported by donations from businessmen, yet we still face financial challenges, to buy new instruments for the orchestra, to replace the old ones and take their performance to a higher level,” Fikry told Xinhua.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK