Baghdad: When the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra (INSO) holds a concert in Baghdad, organisers don't like to advertise: in fact they would prefer as few people as possible know about it.
Welcome to the bravest orchestra in the world.
The INSO, established in 1959, has survived decades of war, international sanctions and sectarian violence that has displaced and killed thousands of Iraqis.
It saw its music library and instrument store looted after the US-led invasion in 2003, and one of its main concert venues was destroyed by US missiles.
But amid the discord, the orchestra seeks harmony.
Its 60 members are an ethnic and religious cross-section of Iraqi society—Shiite, Sunni Muslim and Christian, and Arab, Kurd and Turkman. They see themselves as a family of survivors.
The orchestra's youngest member is 14-year-old oboe player Duaa Al Azzawi, daughter of the orchestra's librarian Majid Al Azzawi. "I want to be famous. Now I practice every day for an hour," she said at a rehearsal a few days before the concert.
Before the US-led invasion, the INSO would advertise concerts in the media, especially on television. Now this happens by word of mouth.
"We cannot advertise now because any gathering is a target for terrorist operations," said Mohammed Amin Izzat, the orchestra's conductor since 1989.
Guests for their concert, like the recent one at the Mansour district in Baghdad, are not given any exact time to arrive at the venue “for security reasons''.
Selected attendees pay 10,000 Iraqi dinars ($8) to watch the musicians perform works by Bach, Dvorak, Vivaldi, and an Iraqi folkloric piece.
The INSO has 10 concerts scheduled for the 2007-2008 season, including a trip to the United States.