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Kennedy Center Debut for Londontowne Symphony Orchestra

Local musicians join Iraqi conductor for a Musical Dialogue Between Nations

What’s a small-town orchestra doing at a place like this?
    You usually hear the Londontowne Symphony Orchestra at South River or Annapolis High School.
    This weekend, the community-based orchestra of some 80 local professional, community and student musicians plays the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
    “This will put us on the map,” says Anna Binneweg, Londontowne’s conductor and a professor at Anne Arundel Community College. “Kennedy Center is one of those venues that represents artistic excellence in our country.”
    Icing the cake, the top man of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra in Baghdad is sharing the podium with Binneweg.
    Binneweg and Karim Wasfi conduct a Musical Dialogue Between Two Nations, a concert sponsored by the Iraqi Cultural Center of Washington, D.C., to introduce cultures that know each other mostly by war.
    They’ve planned a program to capture the American spirit and introduce contemporary Iraqi composer Mohammed U. Sidiq.
    Representing America are George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, which Wasfi conducts, and Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait, conducted by Binneweg.
    “In A Lincoln Portrait, a narrator delivers Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which is right on our theme to promote stability and peace,” Binneweg told Bay Weekly.
    Wasfi seems to specialize in uniting diversity. Born in Cairo, Egypt, he earned three degrees in music at Indiana University. At Cairo University, he switched to physics and philosophy. Then he studied political science at Boston University.
    He’s been a celloist in orchestras in Maine, Ohio and Indiana as well as in Cairo and Iraq’s National Symphony Orchestras. He’s directed Iraq’s National Symphony Orchestra since 2004 under difficult and dangerous circumstances. Many extreme Islamists disapprove of all music, he says, “but for moderate Iraqis, the symphony symbolizes an elevated alternative to barbarism everywhere.”
    Connecting the two halves of the far-reaching union is Betty McGinnis of Arnold, founder of World Artists Experiences, which has become a regular sponsor of international musical exchanges to, she says, “bring citizens from around the world in dialogues with people in local communities, not only on- but also off-stage.”
    Hear Musical Dialogue Between Two Nations Sat. Sept. 15, at 7:30 in Kennedy Center’s 513-seat Terrace Theatre. free: 410-562-8920; www.lso-music.org.