Egyptians win first and third places at Canada's Int'l String Connections Competition

Ati Metwaly , Wednesday 18 May 2022

Egypt’s violinist Nour Ibrahim and Isis String Orchestra came in first and third, respectively, at the Canada-based virtual International String Connections Competition and Conference.

Isis, Nour Ibrahim
Nour Ibrahim - L , Isis String Orchestra - R conducted by its founder and artistic director Khaled Saleh, Cairo Opera House, December 2021

Ibrahim participated in the 13-14 year-old solo violin performers.  Her entry was submitted online by her teacher Svitlana Hossam Shehata. 

The young violinist's talent was recognised at an early age, and she has been giving solo performances and concerts with an orchestra for quite a long time. 

Ibrahim also studies violin with her uncle, renowned Egyptian violinist Hossam Shehata.

The Isis String Orchestra is an ensemble of amateur players and the International String Connections Competition and Conference is their first big win where they were awarded third place in String Orchestra category.

Though founded and managed by violinist and music academic Khaled Saleh in 2020, the history of this unique ensemble goes much further back in time. 

It all began in 2016, when Saleh founded the Osiris String Orchestra, a project to develop and provide performance opportunities for amateur musicians which lasted for two years. Supported by the Awtar Quartet (founded by Saleh in 2012 and made up of professional musicians), training and rehearsals took place at a dedicated space, Osiris for Art Production and Training – an unprecedented opportunity for amateurs. But in 2018 Saleh left and the project eventually folded.

It took Saleh two years to re-launch the project under the name of Isis with no involvement from the Awtar Quartet. Many of the Isis members are returning students of Saleh and from his previous creative endeavours. 

Isis' first concert took place in November 2020, after a call for amateur string players launched a few months earlier. As Saleh clarified at the time, the response of the players exceeded his expectations, with musicians from all walks of life and different generations expressing their eagerness to join the ensemble. The 2020 concert was followed by a number of other appearances. Most recently, Saleh incorporated an oud section to the ensemble.

Saleh is a graduate of the Cairo Conservatory, where he received his PhD and teaches until present. He received his master’s degree from Indiana University (2011).

Also an alumni of Fulbright, Saleh is a former violin player at the Cairo Symphony Orchestra (2004-2009). Since 2017, he has been a member of the Committee of Music, Opera and Ballet at the Supreme Council of Culture (Ministry of Culture), and a coordinator and jury member of the Nicolas Latif string competition. He is also a violin instructor at the Al Nour Wal Amal Orchestra, consisting of blind women musicians.

The International String Connections Competition and Conference gathers competitors and instructors from around the world to meet online and take part in a conference featuring performances, scholarly presentations, and discussions, and hear the results of the competition.  

The 2021/2022 competition, with entry by invitation, required the solo performers and ensembles to submit a video presenting their work.

With participants coming from Cyprus, Germany, the US, Egypt, Italy, Russia, Ukraine, and Brazil, the awards were announced on 8 May. 

Over the competitions' past editions, the event focused on solo performers playing the violin, viola, cello, double-bass, harp, and guitar, aged between 5 and 25. 

This year, the competition introduced two new categories: the chamber group with strings (with or without winds) and string orchestra.

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