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St George was half Syrian (allegedly) so on England’s patron saint day we commissioned the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians to present a celebration of their country and culture to provide a more positive representation of their homeland than the unremittingly tragic news about the civil war.

The orchestra features musicians forced to flee their country by the war, most of whom now live in Britain as refugees. They performed both traditional Arabic music and contemporary compositions as well as two songs with Damon Albarn who previously showcased the orchestra’s talents on tour with the Gorillaz, on recorded tracks and on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury.

 

Members of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra joined the Syrian musicians on stage and after minimal rehearsal played classical Arabic music on their traditional western orchestral instruments alongside ouds and neys.

The concert was an expression of the irrepressibility of music and a demonstration of how culture can surpass politics and conflict to bring people together.

A large section of the 1000 strong audience were invited representatives from Merseyside’s Arab and refugee communities – and there was much dancing in the aisles!

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