The grandeur of the orchestra seems a far cry from the barrage of destruction that is usually heard in Palestine.  It is tempting to imagine that classical music has little or no relevance in a place like Gaza, where the only surviving grand piano has only narrowly survived the recent onslaught of Israeli attacks.

The Palestine Youth Orchestra’s vision of using music as a means of resistance chimes with our own commitment to facilitating a fully rounded education for Palestinians that includes extra-curricular development opportunities.  Interpal’s ‘Back to School’ campaign provides educational support to struggling Palestinian students and works to cover the cost of school uniforms, materials and resources to enable Palestinian children to build brighter futures.

The Right to Education includes an emphasis on artistic training and creative thinking, and the critical acclaim of the Palestine Youth Orchestra stands testament to the power of music in creating a humane form of resistance.

Before the performance, we were given a sobering reminder of the nature of the obstacles these young people have overcome in their journey to London’s Royal Festival Hall.  Suhail Khoury, the General Director of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music paid tribute to two musicians, aged just 13 and 15, whose travel permissions were not granted by the Israeli authorities, denying them the privilege of sharing their talent with us.  We further heard that the orchestra were unable to rehearse together as a collective in Palestine, due to the restrictions on movement imposed by the Israeli occupation, making this performance one of the first times they have played together for an audience.

Entwining pieces from the European classical canon with contemporary Arab songs for the voice, the concert stood testament to the transcendence of art across nations, and finished on a triumphant note with the unveiling of the Palestinian flag, offered by a member of the audience to the performers on-stage.  This final note struck a defiant tone, reminding us of the work still to be done in the struggle for Palestinian self-determination and cultural identity.

You can watch the PYO’s teaser trailer for their U.K. tour here.