Egypt's Isis String Orchestra calls on amateur musicians to join ensemble

Ati Metwaly , Saturday 25 Jul 2020

Established by violinist Khaled Saleh, the Isis String Orchestra is a continuation of the Osiris String Orchestra which suspended activities in 2018

String Orchestra
(Photo by Inas Gohar)

"The Isis String Orchestra will soon launch its activities, inviting new amateur string players to join the creative body," Khaled Saleh, Egyptian violin player and founder of the orchestra told Ahram Online.

The new orchestra is a continuation of Saleh's previous project of the same character, Osiris String Orchestra, a body that was also established by the musician.

Saleh is a graduate of the Cairo Conservatory, where he recieved his PhD and teaches until present. He recieved his master’s degree from the Indiana University (2011).

Also an alumni of Fulbright, Saleh is a former violin player at the Cairo Symphony Orchestra (2004-2009). Since 2017, he has been a member of the Committee of Music, Opera and Ballet at the Supreme Council of Culture (Ministry of Culture), and a coordinator and jury member of the Nicolas Latif string competition. He is also a violin instructor at the Al Nour Wal Amal Orchestra, consisting of blind women musicians. While performing with numerous ensembles, Saleh founded the Awtar Quartet consisting of professional musicians in 2012.

In 2016, he founded the Osiris String Orchestra, an ensemble which until 2018 aimed to develop and provide performance opportunities to amateur musicians. Supported by the Awtar Quartet, the trainings and rehearsals were taking place at the Osiris for Art Production and Training.

"In 2018, I left the project and later on the Osiris closed," Saleh clarified, adding that the Isis String Orchestra will be composed entirely of amateur musicians with a new pattern of trainings and rehearsals, and in a new location.

"Just as we worked with Osiris, the Isis String Orchestra will have a few seasons per year with each lasting for three months during which I provide trainings as we prepare for the final performances. This time we will have one group rehearsal per week, with additional work being done online. This time, the Awtar Quartet will support the ensemble in the final performance only," Saleh said.

"I hope to hold a concert after the completion of our first season which begins on 4 September. In case the situation of the pandemic worsens, we will definitely do some virtual projects, videos to be posted online, etc."

The orchestra relies on violins and celli, inviting all amateur musicians to join the team which is fully trained by Saleh in addition to him directing and conducting the orchestra.

"We already have numerous members coming from the Osiris orchestra. The new ones are welcome to join, bearing in mind that they should have some experience in playing the violin, viola or cello. The ability of reading music -- even if not professionally -- is also one of the basic requirements."

Following its previous practice, the Isis String Orchestra focuses on Western classical music, some light compositions, as well as a few works from the Arabic repertoire, all of which are being chosen and arranged for the ability of the performers.

Saleh's amateur orchestra is definitely a rarity on Egypt's cultural scene.

"There are many similar practices internationally," Saleh clarified. "In Egypt, we have many people playing string instruments on hobbystic basis and mostly their efforts are limited to taking courses here and there. With the Isis String Orchestra, we can provide a platform for those talents to nurture their passion and perform in front of the audience."

Throughout the years of operations, the body became a community which shares similar mindsets and interests. As Saleh underscores, the musicians became friends and are eager to welcome new members to their practice. "Since 2018, when we stopped our activities, all the members of Osiris were eager to return to music and the orchestra."

Saleh also explains the choice of the orchestra's name, saying that "it takes us back to the Egyptian mythology where the god Osiris, a primeval king of Egypt was killed by his brother Set and his body was cut up into pieces. As the myth says, Osiris' wife Isis restored her husband's body, something that we are now doing with the new orchestra."

The call for new amateur string players remains open until 15 August. The musicians can follow the Isis String Orchestra facebook page for more details. The activities will kick-off on 4 September.

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