Bosnia has brought its Sarajevo Philharmonic Orchestra (SPO) to Qatar, playing well-known works by Bosnian composers in capital Doha for the first time.
At the invitation of Bisera Turkovic, ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Qatar, the orchestra performed on Tuesday evening at the Opera House in Doha’s Katara Cultural Village, to promote Bosnian culture and artists outside of the country.
Founded in 1923, the orchestra is one of the oldest cultural institutions in Bosnia.
“The philharmonic orchestra will celebrate 100 years of existence in 2023 … We are forever grateful [for the opportunity]. All of the musicians are overjoyed and glad that we came here to this friendly country,” SPO director Samir Lokvancic told Al Jazeera.
The performance featured soprano Adema Pljevljak-Krehic and bass Ivica Saric who together performed Hasanaganica, a famous Bosniak folk ballad from the 17th century, with Samra Gulamovic conducting.
“I consider this job to be the most beautiful thing in life that we can do, to please ourselves and to please the audience,” Gulamovic told Al Jazeera.
The orchestra experienced dire times between 1992 and 1995 amid heavy shelling and sniper attacks from Serb forces besieging the capital, Sarajevo, during the war.
During the siege, some of its members were killed or seriously wounded, and their instruments destroyed.
Pljevljak-Krehic and Gulamovic were both students at Sarajevo’s Music Academy at the time.
They told Al Jazeera that, despite the shelling, they never gave up on trying to live “normal lives” and would make the hour-long trek to the academy every day.
“We had to prove to ourselves that everything is still normal, that we’re living a normal life. Our education, our investment in ourselves was maybe even more intensive because of the war,” Pljevljak-Krehic said.
Despite the difficult conditions, the orchestra persisted, holding rehearsals in basements and reading scores by candlelight. They performed more than 100 concerts during the war according to Emir Nuhanovic, former director of SPO.
June 19, 1994, marked a special day for them when they performed Mozart’s Requiem in the ruins of Sarajevo’s National Library and City Hall for the 10,000 people killed in the city. The famous maestro Zubin Mehta conducted the concert.
The same year, the orchestra held concerts in Italy and later expanded their performances to Austria, Turkey, Czech, France and Switzerland.
Mirvad Kuric, minister of culture and sport for Sarajevo Canton, told Al Jazeera that he hopes artists from Doha will, in turn, visit Sarajevo.
“We hope this is the start of a good, successful partnership,” Kuric said.