UAE National Symphony Orchestra in Abu Dhabi

Classical musical society plan their next season in the capital Discuss this article

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On February 10, 2012, the UAE National Symphony Orchestra (UAENSO) made their debut with a fun concert entitled A Night at the Movies. Bringing various popular movie musical scores to life, such as Star Wars, Superman and James Bond, this non-profit group put on a spectacular show with some budding young talent, from both the city and the country. Originally the brain child of conductor Andrew Berryman and vocalist Janet Hassouneh, the project is now well under way with some concerts set for next season.

Among the different objectives of this non-profit group are to stimulate the artistic and cultural activities available for younger generations, as well as compiling a pool of local musicians and artists. Not only are they looking for Emirati artists, but expatriate ones as well. By offering local talent a chance to thrive, the UAENSO will be able to provide orchestras for various formal occasions, as opposed to outsourcing this talent.
So far, the group has hosted some very successful shows, including Mostly Mozart, An Arabian Night and the National Day Gala. During two of their shows in the 2012 season, local Emirati musicians were featured.

These were operatic soprano Sara Al Qaiwani and young piano virtuoso Sarah Al Kaabi, a recent winner in the UAE International Chopin Competition Abu Dhabi 2012.

Having kicked off with a successful inaugural season, the UAENSO is looking ahead for more fun and entertainment in 2013. ‘We are definitely going to host another Night at the Movies’, Janet tells us, ‘as well as A Night at the Proms among others.’ Interested parties can check the group’s website ( for a full list of upcoming events, as well as ticket information.

The UAENSO also hosts the Young Artists Concerto Competition, which allows young aspiring musicians to compete for a title and a chance to play professionally. This year the competition featured pianists only up to the age of 18, with participants competing from Canada, Iran, the USA, China and the UK. The competition is judged by a panel of international judges led by the orchestra’s maestro, Andrew Berryman. The next competition will be in 2013 and will be open to violin players.

We caught up with the charismatic Andrew to ask him a few questions about the organisation.

What was the main drive behind creating UAENSO?
We wanted to create a professional level symphony orchestra giving the musicians of the Emirates an opportunity to perform at live concerts and functions.

What do you hope to achieve?
The biggest aspiration is to create a full time symphony orchestra and deliver music to all cultures and all ages, while also allowing local musicians to express themselves.

What are some of the challenges you face?

The biggest hurdle we face is funding. We are on the lookout for sponsors and other bodies to back us.

How has the response been so far from the Emirati students?
The response from all emirates has been incredibly positive and the Emirati soloists we have had performing with the orchestra have been quite incredible.

What is your favourite part of the job?
Deciding on, then creating, the music to play in concerts and choosing how to present it to the audience.

What is the biggest challenge in cultivating a taste for this type of music among the youth today?
The key to get them interested is simple; communicate, entertain and include them in what you are doing.
For more information about the UAE National Symphony Orchestra email (02 558 1958).

By Sara Taher
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

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