Posted on April 09, 2014

Sasol, the global integrated energy and chemical company, hosted the British Paraorchestra for its first ever concert in the Middle East for a joint performance with the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra entitled, ‘Souls in Harmony’. Held under the patronage of Ms. Muneera Bint Nasser Al-Misnad, Chairperson of the Board of the Qatar Foundation for Social Work, the Paraorchestra’s visit was part of Sasol’s ongoing ‘Definitely Able’ corporate social responsibility initiative.

The concert took place at Katara Opera House on Friday. The concert was attended by H.E. Dr. Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari, Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage; H.E. Nicholas Hopton, Ambassador of Britain to Qatar; H.E. Saad Cachalia, Ambassador of South Africa to Qatar and Mr. Saeed Rashid Al Kaabi, Executive President, Qatar Foundation for Social Work, among other dignitaries.

The British Paraorchestra is the world’s first professional ensemble of disabled musicians. Founded by British conductor Charles Hazlewood in January 2012, the Paraorchestra became known internationally after its acclaimed performance at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic Games in London with award-winning British rock band, Coldplay.

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Speaking at the concert Marjo Louw, President of Sasol Qatar, said: "As a member of the Qatari community, Sasol is pleased to host the first-ever appearance of the British Paraorchestra outside of Europe. We thank the Paraorchestra for sharing their talents with us, and for the model they set for achievement. We extend our gratitude to the talented Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra for lending their able support to the concert and being such wonderful co-hosts. This ‘souls in harmony’ performance is a reminder to us all that with opportunity, support and dedication, anything can be possible.”

“The British Paraorchestra and I thank the patrons for the overwhelming response we received from the audience and the amazing hospitality extended to us by our friends at Sasol. Collaborating with the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra and raising awareness of the talents of people with disabilities has been a truly phenomenal experience”, said Charles Hazelwood, founder and conductor of the British Paraorchestra. The concert opened with the performance of the soundtrack 'Time' from the movie 'Inception' by film composer, Hans Zimmer. This piece was carefully chosen for its relevance to the cause. As Mr. Hazelwood highlighted: “the movie’s plot is about entering people’s dreams and that’s what we are trying to do with our music; get into the minds of the audience and change their perceptions about disabled musicians.”

To further the ‘Definitely Able’ message, the Paraorchestra visited the Al Noor Institute for the visually impaired, where they played music and interacted with students. The members of the Paraorchestra shared their talents with the students through the universal language of music. Students had the chance to hear, touch and feel different instruments to further understand the role of each instrument and musicians within the orchestra. The interactive session provided a true reflection of being ‘Definitely Able’ and encouraged the students to focus on their abilities rather than their disabilities. This also provided an opportunity for the teachers and students to introduce traditional Arabic instruments to the guest musicians. They were mesmerized by the look and sound of the rababah. The British Paraorchestra musicians were described as: “Role models, a child’s dream, and providing a wonderful life lesson”, by a teacher attending the interactive musical session.

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On Thursday, the Paraorchestra visited Souq Waqif and surprised visitors on the streets with an impromptu performance. The crowd that gathered to experience the world-class music was amazed to find that the musicians had a variety of disabilities with some on wheelchairs and others with impaired vision. The Paraorchestra's musicians come from a variety of backgrounds and bring a range of musical styles and influences to the ensemble: from drum and bass to Baroque recorder; from lute to Indian sitar and tabla; percussion to clarinet; laptops, iPads and specially designed software.

The ‘Souls in Harmony’ concert aimed to expand on the success of ‘Definitely Able’, emphasizing the importance of offering equal opportunities to all citizens in society irrespective of their disabilities. Sasol is committed to creating and promoting a positive attitude without bias among all in the community. The ‘Souls in Harmony’ concert is supported by The Grand Hyatt Hotel, QMDI and the British Embassy of Doha.