Mozart for the masses

Dubai Pops Orchestra aim to bring classical music to the people. Benita Adesuyan finds out how

Area Guides

Flicking through the stations on the radio, you’ll come across just one playing classical music, so it would be easy to assume that the city’s ears favour Justin Bieber over Beethoven. But new community ensemble Dubai Pops Orchestra are playing popular classical arrangements that even Bieber fans can enjoy.

“There are several amateur orchestras here, but they mostly concentrate on serious classical music. A lot of them try to educate their audiences and often play pieces that are quite obscure, even to musicians. I felt there was a gap in the market for something a bit lighter,” says
Ed Keeley, the orchestra’s conductor and founder.

Having played in a military band in the UK, Keeley has performed for The Queen, but now, he wants to entertain audiences of a different standing in Dubai. “People are most entertained when they hear music they recognise,” he says. “There are bits of Beethoven and bits of Strauss that are popular, but even Frank Sinatra, Queen and David Bowie contain classical elements, so it spans a whole spectrum of music.”

Keeley assembled the 44-piece Dubai Pops Orchestra with his wife this summer, having met a large number of talented musicians he wanted to work with over the three years he has lived in the emirate. “The criteria wasn’t just that musicians had to be great. They also had to be a bunch
of nice people who enjoy making music.

We wanted it to be a fun experience for the musicians as well as the audience,” he says.

The group includes international players (some of whom are professional) and on Tuesday December 15, they will perform their first concert at the Centre for Musical Arts at Gold & Diamond Park in Al Quoz. The set list covers a broad scope – from classics to film scores. “We’re opening with Fanfare for the Common Man, but the Emerson, Lake and Palmer version that came out in the ’70s rather than Aaron Copland’s original. We’ve also managed to get some bagpipes for Auld Lang Syne and I know the one thing everyone is looking forward to playing is the Star Trek theme,” Keeley says.

The emerging ensemble are already planning more concerts for next year, with March 17, 2016 – St Patrick’s Day – also pencilled in. Irish dancers and music from Riverdance will feature. Keeley is always looking for more players, too, and those interested can contact the group through Facebook.

The fledgling 44 may have yet to play their first notes together in public in Dubai, but with such ambition and expansion on the cards, these notes won’t be their last.
Free. Tue December 15, 7.30pm. Centre for Musical Arts, Gold & Diamond Park, Al Quoz, (04 341 8872).

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