Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

An Orchestra under Siege Falls out of Aid Spotlight Once a Favorite of Western Benefactors, the Sarajevo Philharmonic Is Running out of Funds, despite Its Efforts to Maintain Normalcy

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

An Orchestra under Siege Falls out of Aid Spotlight Once a Favorite of Western Benefactors, the Sarajevo Philharmonic Is Running out of Funds, despite Its Efforts to Maintain Normalcy

Article excerpt

THEY'RE not snobby, they don't do cocktail parties afterward, and they have to wear overcoats and hats during performances because their concert hall has no heat.

For music aficionados and besieged residents in search of an escape, the Sarajevo Philharmonic Orchestra has nothing to do with high society and everything to do with sanity. But the orchestra, once a fashionable cause cbre for Western aid givers, is running out of grant money and may soon have to shut down.

"We have money for one more concert," says Emir Muhanovic, director of the orchestra since 1973. "We're going to perform it on Jan. 26," commemorating the 1,000th day of the siege. Then "that's it," Mr. Muhanovic says.

The orchestra, which had 100 players from around the world before the war, is now down to 45 determined Sarajevo residents dressed in ragged, ill-fitting tuxedos.

During one practice session in December 1993, the concert hall was hit by five shells, but no one was hurt.

Seven of its musicians have been killed, and seven have been wounded in the war, but the orchestra has continued to hold regular concerts every month and a half and to attract a respectable number of listeners.

"It's like a time machine. It brings the audience to another country, another place," one musician explains. "You feel like a free man."

The orchestra had many friends during the height of the siege, but donations have slowed as Bosnia's war has dragged on. Master conductor Zubin Mehta gave the orchestra $10,000 of his own money and made an appeal to the world's musicians to aid them.

The Soros Foundation gave the orchestra an $8,000 grant, and Mr. Mehta and other musicians helped arrange a 15-concert tour of Europe for the orchestra last September to raise money.

But those funds have been slowly used to pay salaries and electricity bills as Sarajevo has fallen from the world's disaster spotlight.

"We've spent it. We perform concerts for free, and we're going to continue to perform concerts for free," Muhanovic says. …

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