A unique orchestra bringing together the most talented young musicians from around the world aims to hit all the right notes when it performs in front of hundreds of people here.
The Youth Orchestra of the Middle East is a first-of-its-kind event in the region and seeks to inspire youngsters in Dubai and across the UAE to play a musical instrument to a high level.
The 60-strong group is made up of children aged between 11 and 18 from the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UK.
XPRESS met the youngsters as they were being put through their paces during rehearsals at Dubai College, seven days before they were due to play in front of a sell-out audience at the venue. They had met for the first time a day earlier (April 3), before being thrust onto the stage.
Click here to watch the young musicians in action
Natalie Robehmed, 18, of British and Lebanese parentage, was born in the UK but has lived for most of her life in Dubai.
Currently doing her A-levels, the percussionist jumped at the chance to take part in the orchestra.
She said: “I've been enjoying every minute of it. I'm really looking forward to performing in front of so many people. It's very exciting.''
George Agius, 17, grew up in London, but moved to Dubai with his family in September 2008.
He is studying music and music technology at Jumeirah College and plays the trombone.
He said: “It's been really interesting meeting people from so many different backgrounds and getting to know them.
“Our first practice was difficult, but we have been improving each time we play.'' Katie Moulang, 17, is part of a small British contingent from the Surrey County Youth Orchestra and plays the French horn.
She was informed about the opportunity by Peter Currie, who works with the Surrey group and who will be conducting the Middle East orchestra.
She said: “I'm really excited about being involved. It's going to be the first time I will have played in front of so many people and I can't wait.
“Meeting people from the Middle East has been a great experience and I'm looking forward to seeing the sights in Dubai.''
Marwa Sharaky, 12, was born in Alexandria in Egypt before moving to Dubai at a young age. Her ambition is to become a professional musician. She said: “I have been playing the cello since I was six and before that I played the piano. Being able to play a musical instrument makes you special because it's a hobby not many people do.''
The group had four 90-minute sessions a day until the concerts at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi on Thursday (April 9) and Dubai College tomorrow (April 10).
Twelve instructors were at hand to help with the rehearsals.
The orchestra is the brainchild of British expats Christine Titterington, her husband Alan Moore and Marco Zambonini, head of music at Dubai College.
Titterington, who played the bassoon for orchestras in London, began work on setting up the group more than a year ago.
It was given a huge boost after Shaikha Manal Bint Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Ladies Club and Dubai Women's Establishment, agreed to become the royal patron.
Moore, who works for investment bank Chescor Capital, helped secure 14 sponsors. He said: “I wanted to give something back and inspire talented young people in the UAE, especially Emiratis.
“We didn't know what to expect in the first session, but after the children settled down they have been improving.''
Although there are no Emiratis in the group this time, organisers are hopeful there will be representation in coming years.