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The Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra

Tue, 09 November 2010

By Ali Ahmed al Riyami -
Having celebrated their 25th anniversary earlier this year and as Arabia’s sole pure Arabic symphony orchestra, the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra (ROSO) can be proud of their sterling achievements since its establishment in 1985 — primarily due to the gracious directives of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, originating from his inspirational taste for classical music and culture.
His Majesty the Sultan was the driving force behind establishing the core of ROSO, in September 1985, and this is why the decision was taken to recruit young Omani musicians (male and female) who were keen to encompass a new world of timeless classical music. It was a unique idea from the outset, a rare and courageous step full of confidence and courage.
These intrepid young musicians began their musical training under the instruction and directives of professional musicians from different parts of the world. With the passage of time, their musical talents grew and they soon began taking examinations from the Associated Board of Music, in Britain, where they attained internationally recognised qualifications.
On July 1, 1987, ROSO, under the patronage of His Majesty, performed its debut concert. This was the first of a long line of concerts that were to follow — to date; the total number of concerts exceeds 150, inclusive of public and private concerts held within and outside the Sultanate.
ROSO’s major achievements
There have been many landmarks in the history of ROSO, including their appearance in 1996 with Lord Menuhin and in 2005 with Dr Subramaniam, both of whom are world famous violinists. Many other world-renowned conductors and musicians have graced the stage with ROSO, including the likes of celebrated conductors such as Dimitri Alexeyev, Russell Keable, Malcolm Binney and Simon Wright, to name but a few.
With this year’s 40th National Day celebrations ROSO will be performing, for the first time, together with the 1289211559819735400 Geneva International Orchestra, here at the Al Bustan Palace Hotel’s Oman Auditorium. It is good to note that many of the original members are still playing in the orchestra. The future holds enormous promise for the orchestra’s Omani musicians. With concerted commitment, drive, vitality, true ability and the acquired knowledge that comes from years of diligent dedication and practice, there is a strong potential to produce a new generation of talented Omani conductors and composers, who will play their important part in developing Omani classical music.
The success of this young orchestra, whose commitment and dedication to their art is highly commendable, can be directly attributed to the gracious directives of His Majesty the Sultan, whose vision and confidence have been paramount in the founding of this orchestra.
The beginning
The story of the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra is one of courage, energy and sheer daring, beginning with a study on the best way of forming a Royal Symphony Orchestra, as instructed by His Majesty the Sultan, in 1984. It was decided that all of the orchestra’s members should be Omani nationals and, as the country had no tradition of Western classical music, the whole project had to start from scratch.
In 1985, the first boys were recruited by a team from the Royal Guard of Oman (RGO). They visited many towns and villages looking for suitable candidates. The new recruits would be pioneers in a quest to develop a symphony orchestra. A brave decision for them and their families, as none of them had heard or seen a symphony orchestra.
A list of 1,300 applicants was narrowed down to a short list of 250 and from this 100 were selected to start training. Initially the boys learnt English language and some rudimentary music in preparation of the arrival of musical instruments and music teachers. In the spring of 1986, the first instruments arrived, 1289211577889738700 followed shortly by the first batch of music teachers.
On July 1, 1987, the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra gave its inaugural concert, at the Al Bustan Palace Hotel’s Oman Auditorium, in front of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos and an invited audience.
The start of something really special
ROSO is unique in many ways. The main one being that it is the only truly pure Arabic symphony orchestra, there is no other such orchestra in the world and it is a record that Oman should be justly proud of.
A big step was then taken in July 1988 when the orchestra gave its first public performance and in September of the same year 25 more boys were recruited.
About ROSO
ROSO comes under the auspices of the Royal Guard of Oman. The orchestra's home is located near Seeb, north of Muscat, in Oman, and is basically the equivalent of a Western style private music college.
Besides the administration block, the campus has accommodation facilities for all of its musicians, together with small and large rehearsal rooms that can accommodate sectional and individual practice and the full orchestra, respectively. There is a school that teaches younger members English language, Mathematics, Music Theory and Arabic language and social studies. There are recreational and dining facilities and a mosque to allow for prayers.
Concerts
ROSO is one of the only remaining Royal Court Orchestras in the world. Their public concerts here are performed at the Al Bustan Palace Hotel’s Oman Auditorium and at the Muscat InterContinental Hotel. They have travelled abroad and have made public performances on many occasions, in Belgium, Dubai and Abu Dhabi and privately in London and Paris.
Further concerts have taken place in Paris in October 2005, at the invitation of Unesco for their International Conference, and in Bahrain, in November 2005 for the 14th Bahrain Music Festival. ROSO also had the 1289211559279735300 privilege of being invited to the Young Euro Classic Festival, in Berlin in 2007 (this concert featured the world-famous violinist Dr Subramaniam and renowned Lebanese Lute player Marcel Khalife) where they received a 10-minute standing ovation at the end of their performance and in Geneva last year.
In addition to this, ROSO has played with some of the world’s best musicians, including the late Lord Menuhin, in 1996, and, in 2005, appeared in Oman with the world renowned violinist Dr Subramaniam. The orchestra also performs for many visiting dignitaries to the Sultanate, at the behest of His Majesty the Sultan.
Musicians’ achievements
Over the years many ROSO musicians have, under their own initiative, studied various other aspects of music. Many of them have started writing music and it is with great pride that one of them, Hamdan al Shaely, had his world premiere, Blessed Renaissance, performed by ROSO in 2007, in Berlin. This piece was well received by the German audience.
Some of the musicians are seeking to become conductors and composers. To further encourage them, every year musicians are selected to go on courses during their summer holidays, with the aim of producing conductors, musical specialists and composers.
ROSO Music School
To capitalise on the significant successes achieved by the orchestra and its talented musicians, in 2003 His Majesty the Sultan initiated a student recruitment drive for the Music School. The Royal Guard advertised and many hundreds of young Omani boys and girls applied for places at the school.
After employing ROSO Music School’s stringent testing method — known as the Bentley Method, to ascertain the musicality of the candidates — the large number of applicants was whittled down to a more manageable number. This number was further reduced following compulsory medical examinations, which checks the applicant’s physical and cognitive health and ability.
In January 2003, the successful students arrived and commenced 1289211993530012600 their education. At the school they not only study musical instruments
but also Music theory, English language, Maths and Arabic Studies. Since 2007, students form part of a youth
orchestra that has already performed for His Majesty the Sultan.
In 2005, a further batch of students arrived at Al Maqamat. They have already begun to study their respective musical instruments and are achieving good results.
The ROSO school uses the Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music — a British system of musical examination — for their yearly examination, which is overseen by external examiners.
The future looks bright for these young Omanis, provided they work hard and achieve good results with the number of new recruits continuing to grow.