On Wednesday 8 May the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) held a fundraising concert at the Cairo Opera House to benefit Syrian refugees in Egypt. The concert was attended by people from all walks of life, including many Syrians who are currently living in Egypt.
The orchestra was led by Maestro Nayer Nagui, who studied conducting under the tutelage of Professor Maestro Dominique Rouits at L’Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris. He became the Cairo Opera Orchestra Artistic Director and Principal Conductor in 2011. He is also the founder and musical director of the Cairo Celebration Choir.
Also among the list of musicians was famous oud player Naseer Shamma, who graduated from the Institute of Musical Studies in Baghdad in 1987. He is known for his concern with humanitarian issues, volunteering to play for free in many fundraising concerts for different issues across the Arab world.
The operatic pieces were sung by Syrian soprano Racha Rizk, who graduated in 2002 from the High Institute of Music in Damascus, and Ragaa El Din Ahmed, who studied under the tutelage of Professor Sobhi Bedair.
They were also joined by singer Abdel Kader Aboul Seoud, who formed the Syrian group Al-Rawda.
Before the beginning of the concert Mohamed Dayri, the regional representative for UNHCR Egypt, gave a short speech. He thanked the attendees, as well as the British Embassy in Egypt and the Arab League.
“We are witness to a humanitarian tragedy beyond comprehension, one of the worst humanitarian crises of the twenty-first century … Indeed, the Syrian humanitarian crisis requires an urgent solution that brings to an end the prolonged suffering of Syrian communities that have endured a lot over the past two years. Since the start of the crisis in Syria, UNHCR, together with UN and non-governmental organisation partners, has been striving to protect the vast number of internally-displaced families still inside Syria.”
“Then there are refugees, currently over 1.4 million, predominantly women and children, who have fled to neighbouring countries and of course to Egypt.”
“Tonight we are paying tribute to them all, to the people of Egypt, to the government of Egypt, to the donor countries and to the local and international charity organisations in Egypt for the hospitality and generosity that you have extended to Syrian families and communities who have fled their homes, their livelihoods and sought sanctuary here in Egypt…Your presence here tonight, your generous contributions are testament to the spirit of human solidarity,” Dayri said.
The evening started with the orchestra playing the overture of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, followed by soprano Racha Rizk singing Ach Ich Fühl. Then tenor Ragaa El Din Ahmed sung Donizetti’s Una Furtiva Lagrima. The concert continued with some songs from Bizet’s Carmen, but perhaps the highlight of the evening was when Ragaa El Din Ahmed sung Nessun Dorma so beautifully that the concert hall was filled with the grateful audience’s applause.
After the intermission Iraqi musician Naseer Shamma took to the stage and played some of his famous pieces on the oud. Many attendees were very touched by singer Abdel Kader Aboul Seoud’s Bakteb Esmek Ya Belady (I write down your name, O my country). Some listeners kept shouting “Allah” as a sign of appreciation for Aboul Seoud’s great rendition of the song. The evening ended with the orchestra playing the overture of The Barber of Seville with oud player Naseer Shamma.