Orpheus XXI, an orchestra featuring refugee musicians

Wednesday 1 March 2017 at the French Ministry of Culture in Paris, musician and conductor Jordi Savall presented Orpheus XXI, a project he designed to encourage the integration of Iraqi, Afghani and Syrian refugees through music.

"The whole story began with the terrible images of the Calais Jungle. I couldn’t go on performing in the world’s finest concert halls and remain indifferent to the tragedy affecting our society.
So I decided to go and perform in Calais and at the camps in Greece with refugee musicians. The music took their minds of the situation for a while,"
explained Spanish conductor and viola da gamba player, Jordi Savall.

This is how Orpheus XXI was born. The group has since performed at the Saline Royale in Arc-et-Senans with the support of European Union, French regional governments and a corporate sponsor, the Orange Foundation.

The adventure took place in several stages. The first involved the selection of the the twenty professional-level refugee musicians under the baton of Jordi Savall. Then, the orchestra went out to teach school children aged 9-18 in schools and immigration centres.
The Orpheus XXI orchestra will perform around Europe, with the most highly motivated young musicians.


Jordi Savall with a refugee musician in Calais


"In Eastern countries, music is passed on orally," explains Jordi Savall. “Musicians are like living libraries. If they disappear, if they can’t perform, their knowledge will die with them.
The objective of Orpheus XII is not to perform pieces by Bach or Mozart. The aim is to bring the musical heritage and culture of the East to life and allow people to communicate through music."
This sharing of cultures is fundamental to Jordi Savall, who for many years has brought together Syrian, Moroccan, Turkish, Afghani, Malian, and Greek musicians.
In 2008 he created an Israeli-Palestinian orchestra and published an album including Jewish, Muslim and Christian music.


The Saline Royale in Arc-et-Senans where the project comes to life


Orpheus XXI is expected to continue beyond 2018 and outside the region of Franche-Comté, with the musical project considered a model that can be reproduced in other regions.
The Orange Foundation was the first sponsor to support the project which shows that we can all benefit from a more open and generous society. We are proud to support this magnificent artistic adventure in solidarity open to cultures from around the world.

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