Pray for Syria, a concert for a country and a people who can use all the prayers we can pray. On May 4, conductor Valery Gergiev, and the Russian Mariinsky Theater Orchestra played a benefit concert for the UNESCO site at Palmyra, and a tribute to the men who liberated the city from ISIS a few weeks before, in Palmyra’s historic amphitheater. The concert was played before an audience that included Syrian and Russian soldiers who have remained in Palmyra to clear bombs left behind by ISIS to destroy the site and the nearby town of Tadmor. They dedicated the performance to Aleksandr Prokhorenko, a Russian Soldier who sacrificed his life during the retaking of the city, and to Aleksandr Prokhorenko, the Syrian proprietor of the Archeological site there who was beheaded by ISIS and hung from a column in the main square at the historic site.
I finally found time to listen to the concert last night. I can attest, after listening, that Gergiev and his orchestra put on a brilliant performance. Moreover, the outdoor setting, the splendor of the ancient ruins in the midst of open desert under a cloudless blue sky, where the audience sat on the same bleachers as members of the Roman Empire more than two millennia ago was an austere space, but also a sort of dreamscape where past and present overlap in simple perfection. And the music, the music was exquisite, During intermission, children with wreaths of flowers in their hair sang a patriotic song. What a lovely and gracious gift to the people of Syria!
View the concert below:
The first video begins with the preliminary introductions. The second ends at the end. I think they must cross somewhere in the middle, but I listened at different times so I didn’t clarify. The concert begins at about minute 13 or 14 of the first video.
Nowhere in Syria is truly safe at present, yet one of the most renowned conductors in the world came with members of his orchestra to play this tribute to a country and a people who have suffered terrible losses over the last five years in a completely unnecessary, externally manipulated ‘civil’ war. The concert was broadcast live on Syrian and Russian TV, and live streamed so that people anywhere could watch and listen. It is sad that Americans don’t give Syria credit even for nationhood, and can’t appreciate a celebration of a victory of the Syrian Arab Army,, an army of the people of Syria, and their allies, an expression of the unity of the people, the great majority of the people who remain loyal to their government.
However, Western mainstream media coverage of the event was typically unappreciative. It seems that western officials and their broadcast repeaters interpreted the event as Russian self aggrandizement. But I would imagine that the Syrian people who have lived in an international war zone for the last 5 years saw it differently. Belittling the friends of one’s enemy is not an unusual tactic, though it is small minded and strategically counter productive- that is, if you wish to find your way to peace. But what can you expect when President Obama’s spokesmen was unable to appreciate the defeat of ISIS (supposed enemy #1) in Palmyra because the victory was accomplished by the Syrians themselves.