In Time of War

Classic Arts Features   In Time of War
The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra takes part in an international act of goodwill.

The Iraqi Symphony was requested to come up with a "wish list" of most wanted and needed music. "Anything would have been an improvement," Tafoya explains. "They needed everything‹vocal music, full orchestration, chamber music. They had almost nothing."

Tafoya and associate librarian Elsbeth Brugger were able to put together a number of pieces to send to Baghdad, including 40 vocal scores to Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, Brahms's Symphony No. 4, Stravinsky's Firebird, and Bizet's Carmen. "It's nice to be part of something like that," says Tafoya. "We were one of the many orchestras that tried to lend a helping hand."

Musical scores arrived from around the world at distribution points in Washington, D.C., London, and New South Wales, Australia. From there the music made its way to the Iraqi Symphony in war-torn Baghdad. "The members of the Iraqi Orchestra were overwhelmed and very appreciative," Tafoya remarks.

The Iraqi musicians first learned of their good fortune when they visited Washington, D.C., and participated in a performance with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in December. Tafoya also has an intimate connection with that event.

"I have two children who are musicians and both are members of the NSO," he says. His daughter, Carole, plays violin, and his son John is the orchestra's timpanist. Carole's husband also plays cello with the NSO.

"My son John anticipated that when the Iraqi timpanist came he would not have much in terms of equipment," Tafoya says, "so John brought about a dozen spare mallets for him. As it happens, the Iraqi timpanist had only one pair of mallets. In this country, even high school musicians starting out have more than one pair. John gave him all his spare mallets.

"It's a very heartwarming story," Tafoya concludes. "Here they were just trying to do their thing and through one Air Force colonel this whole thing has evolved. A number of contributing orchestras have sent supplies. The Iraqi Orchestra didn't have tape, pencils‹things we take for granted."

And now, thanks to the efforts of librarians around the world, including the SLSO's John Tafoya, they have the means to make music again.

Eddie Silva is the publications manager for the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.

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