Why the return of the NSO Symphony Orchestra is so exciting

After a brief hiatus, NSO Symphony Orchestra is back with a bang, and their upcoming performance is going to be all swing.

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Since it was founded in 2011, NSO Symphony Orchestra has become a bit of a capital institution.

A cornerstone of culture in Abu Dhabi, the local orchestra was founded by former opera singer Janet Hassouneh, and has performed everything from Tchaikovsky to the Star Wars theme songs over the years with its 100-strong cohort of the UAE’s best musicians.

More than that, though, it has become a vital link between the community and the arts, making classical music accessible to people young and old across the country.

When the news broke recently that NSO was to take its final bow, the community repaid the orchestra in kind for its years of service through an outpouring of public support and offers of assistance.

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So, it was definitely music to our ears to hear that NSO would be back for a few more concerts. If, like us, you’ve attended and loved the orchestra’s performances over the years, then you’re definitely not going to want to miss the next one in October – more on that later.

“It’s always been just me; I don’t have a huge staff or a lot of feedback on what I’m doing,” Janet shrugs. “We live from concert to concert and we don’t have government funding. When we announced that it might be our final curtain, we received a few offers of assistance from people within the orchestra and our community who stepped forward to help us.

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“I didn’t know how much of an impact we’d had until now,” she adds. “The heart and soul of our followers are the UAE community. It’s because of everyone’s help that we’ve been able to continue.”

Thanks to help from the community, the orchestra will once more return to the stage with a Frank Sinatra-themed comeback concert at Emirates Palace on 5th October. All swing and swagger, the orchestra will play favourite hits from the famous blue-eyed crooner including ‘New York, New York’, ‘My Way’ and ‘Come Fly With Me’ alongside guest vocalists and musicians.

For music director Andrew Berryman, the comeback gig is yet another opportunity to bring some of NSO’s signature magic to the stage and bring another great artist to life for
a few hours.

Janet Hassouneh

Janet Hassouneh

“NSO, for me as a musician, is the opportunity to bring our art form to the public,” he nods. “I absolutely believe that classical music is for the masses and I do my best as the musical director to bring all sorts of musical goodies to the listener. I think most musicians feel the same; they just want to perform.

“I want people to leave believing that they have had a fantastic musical experience,” he adds. “We endeavour to use the best musicians in the emirates who have the same passion, musical ambition and drive that we do. It’s never just another concert, and I think the audience feels that energy. This is what makes NSO unique.”

With a problematic lack of funding to tackle, there is still a question mark for now as to
how long the orchestra will continue to perform. But for Janet, NSO will keep going as long as the community that built it continues to give its full support.

“In the beginning, I founded NSO as a big thank you to the UAE,” she reflects. “I’ve lived here a long time. I work for free, I work from the heart to help nurture not only musicians, but young people and Emirati artists – and it has just been extraordinary. We’re very much in touch with our community, and it’s because of that that we’re able to stay where we are. As long as people keep volunteering to help, moving it forward and the audience tells us not to quit, we’ll keep going.”

Need to know 

What: NSO Presents: A Tribute to Frank Sinatra
When: 5th October from 7.30pm
Where: Emirates Palace, Corniche West
Tickets: From AED 125 at ticketmaster.ae
Visit: nsouae.org

WORDS Camille Hogg

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