AL NOUR WAL AMAL ASSOCIATION
The Music Institute and the Chamber Orchestra
The Music Institute
Creating the Music Institute was the idea of the late Mrs. Istiklal Radi, founder of Al Nour Wal Amal Association, who wished to introduce the girls to an art form that many blind people have excelled in, to develop their musical talents and abilities, and to provide them with a creative way to express their emotions.
The Music Institute was established on an academic basis in 1961 by Mrs. Istiklal Radi, with the assistance of Dr. Samha El Kholy, former President of the Egyptian Academy of Arts, Ministry of Culture, and former Dean of the Cairo Conservatory of Music.
Girls who attend the Music Institute learn to play an orchestral music instrument. They receive a double education: they attend the formal national education program in the Association’s school in the morning, and the Music Institute program in the afternoon. In the latter, the girls study all aspects of music: theory, harmony, solfege, ear-training and learn to read music in Braille. The Institute’s staff consists of qualified professors from the Cairo Conservatory of Music, the College of Music Education of Helwan University, and the Cairo Symphony Orchestra.
All music must be memorized; it is impossible to “read” Braille and play an instrument at the same time. Annual exams are supervised by professors from the Cairo Conservatory of Music and the Cairo Symphony Orchestra. After graduation from the Music Institute, some of the most talented students join the Cairo Conservatory of Music to obtain higher degrees in the performance of their instruments; some of them become music teachers in different schools.
The Chamber Orchestra
The Music Institute Chamber Orchestra began as a group of 15 blind musicians, and in 1971, Mrs. Amal Fikry, member of the Board of Directors and in charge of the external affairs of Al Nour Wal Amal, organized the first performance outside the premises of the Association, at the old Cairo Opera House. Then, performances followed at schools, universities, hotels, clubs and embassies, and in 1987, Mrs. Amal Fikry organized the first performance of the second generation of musicians of the Chamber Orchestra, then composed of 30 musicians, at El Gomhoreya Theatre, the best theatre in Cairo at that time. In 1988, Mrs. Amal Fikry embarked on realizing the dream of Mrs. Istiklal Radi, founder of the Association, for the Chamber Orchestra to perform abroad, and obtained an invitation and organized the first trip for the musicians of the second generation of the Chamber Orchestra to travel to perform abroad, and they performed in the famous Town Hall of Vienna.
Since that trip, the Chamber Orchestra of Al Nour Wal Amal gained international repute, fame and recognition and Mrs. Amal Fikry succeeded in obtaining 31 invitations to perform abroad and organized these trips; the Chamber Orchestra visited to date 5 continents, and the musicians have dazzled audiences they cannot see in 26 countries. The countries that our blind women and girls have performed in between 1988 and 2017 are the following:
– 14 European countries: Austria (4 times), England, Sweden, Germany (3 times), Spain, Greece (3 times), Switzerland (twice), France (4 times), Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta and Belgium;
– 5 Arab countries: Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar (twice), Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates (twice);
– 5 Asian countries: Japan, Thailand, India, China and Hong Kong; and
– Australia and Canada.
Abroad, the Orchestra has performed in professional halls, theatres, culture centers, five star hotels, and in a few cases only, it the open air. The Orchestra has been received in all countries with enthusiasm and affection and achieved outstanding success, recognition and standing ovations.
Today, a fourth generation Orchestra composed of school children and university students is being trained, to follow the successful path of the former generations of musicians of Al Nour Wal Amal Chamber Orchestra. These young musicians started to give concerts at the end of the year 2011 and have already won the hearts and admiration of audiences in Cairo. They performed to date in cultural centres, embassies, schools, universities and at the Cairo Opera House.
Over the years, the Chamber Orchestra has become the most famous part of the Al Nour Wal Amal Association. Several conductors have contributed to its activities. During twenty years, the Orchestra was trained and conducted by the late Maestro Ahmed Abul Eid, who had succeeded in developing special techniques and methods to enable the girls to perform as an orchestra without the need to read the notes in Braille while performing, and without the very essential dependence on the famous “baton” of the conductor. From 2004 to 2016, the Chamber Orchestra was conducted by the late Maestro Dr. Aly Osman, who continued to successfully train and conduct the musicians. Today, the Chamber Orchestra is being conducted by Dr. Mohamed Saad Basha.
Dr. Samha El Kholy has technically supervised the Music Institute with much love, devotion and dedication since its establishment, and for a period of 45 years. Dr. Inas Abdeldaiem, the famous flutist and President of the Cairo Opera House, has been in charge of the technical supervision from 2008 to 2018, when she became Minister of Culture.
The Chamber Orchestra is composed of blind girls and women of different ages, from 15 to 55 years, and with different levels of music education. They learn to play their music parts separately and they train twice a week as a chamber orchestra. Al Nour Wal Amal Chamber Orchestra is a chamber orchestra with all four sections: strings, woodwind, brass and percussion.
In Egypt, the Chamber Orchestra has performed for a variety of audiences: in schools, universities, embassies, theaters, concert halls, hotels, at conferences, at the Cairo Opera House, and for important guests to Egypt, including Queens, wives of Presidents, and Heads of State.
Performances include works by Mozart, Beethoven, Bizet, Mendelssohn, Ravel, Purcell, Katchaturian, Weber, Tchaikovsky, Abu-Bakr Khairat, Gamal Abdel Rehim, El Sonbaty and other composers, both foreign and Egyptian. Our Chamber Orchestra was fortunate to have the famous Swiss composer, Gian Piero Riverberi, compose a piece of music “Swiss Medley” especially for our Chamber Orchestra’s visit to Switzerland, as a complementary contribution by him to the repertoire of the Chamber Orchestra, in appreciation of its achievements and high standard of performance.
The Al Nour Wal Amal Chamber Orchestra is unique as it is the only chamber orchestra in the whole world entirely composed of blind musicians who play western classical music as well as oriental music.