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An Orchestra Beyond Borders: Voices of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

The untold story of the West-Eastern Divan, an orchestra reaching across the Israeli-Arab divide.
Bringing together young musicians from Palestine, Israel and other countries of the Middle East, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is both one of the most acclaimed youth orchestras in the world and a rare note of hope in a war-torn region. Founded by Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said in 1999, it aims to promote Arab-Israeli understanding through music. In An Orchestra Beyond Borders, Elena Cheah, a professional musician and assistant to Daniel Barenboim, explores the orchestra’s journey through the remarkable stories of the musicians that comprise it. These youthful testimonies are a window into the life of the region. Together, they communicate the musicians’ ambitions and hopes, their varied and conflicting views on life and politics, and above all the orchestra’s transformative ability to create an atmosphere of musical cooperation away from the implications and hardships of a world full of division and conflict.

Reviews

  • “The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is a beacon of hope on the dismal political landscape of the Middle East ... Raised in enmity, these talented young men and women set an example by their devotion to their common craft. Together they play with wonderful energy and unanimity in an orchestra that is larger than life.”

Blog

  • The Israel-Palestine Conflict: A Reading List

    On Friday 23rd December the UN passed a resolution demanding a stop to Israeli settlement in the occupied territories as, in a shock move, the US refused to veto the resolution. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exploded, calling it a 'declaration of war' (having recently been granted a $38 billion military aid package by the US), and Secretary of State John Kerry criticised Israel's approach to the peace process. But with Trump tweeting that Israel should 'stay strong' until his inauguration, progress still seems unlikely.

    Verso presents a list of books from Israeli, Palestinian, and anti-imperialist authors, to explain the conflict and provide some perspectives on the future. 

    Continue Reading

  • Letter from John Berger to the Palestinian resistance

    Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 5 summons up a happiness that is almost boundless and which, for that very reason, neither he nor we can possess. The Concerto was nicknamed the Emperor. It carries us to an horizon of happiness we cannot cross.

    Daniel Barenboim, Klavier-Festival Ruhr 

    I send it today to the Palestinian students demonstrating at the Beth El checkpoint at the entrance to Ramallah. They too are inspired by 
    a vision of happiness they cannot know in their lives. I send the Concerto as an arm to be used in their struggle against the Israelis who occupy and colonize their homeland. Beethoven approves. He cares deeply about politics. His Symphony No. 3, the Eroica, was inspired by Napoleon when he was still a freedom-fighter and before he became a tyrant. Let’s rename the Emperor for a day: Piano Concerto no. 5, the Intifada.

    John Berger