The Galilee Chamber Orchestra broke ground as the first professional orchestra composed of both Arab and Jewish musicians in Israel. When it started in 2012, the ensemble included only three Arab musicians; now, more than seven years later, the 35-member orchestra boasts equal numbers of both Jewish and Arab musicians. The Orchestra enjoys an international reputation and performance schedule of six major concerts a year, plus numerous performances as part of Polyphony’s in-school music education program, Alhan.
Led by pianist and conductor Saleem Ashkar, the Orchestra brings together musicians from all over Israel from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, and Nazareth, and includes members of the Israeli Philharmonic, other professionals, and 15 of Polyphony’s most advanced Conservatory students, Seminar participants, and Conservatory graduates (between 17 and 26 years old). This combination ensures a high level of performance and provides a unique energy to the ensemble. At the same time, this dynamic connects Polyphony’s other programs and provides a tangible goal for young musicians.
Moved by Polyphony’s top-notch musicianship and vision for Arab and Jewish equality, world-famous musicians from cellist Lynn Harrell to pianist Sir András Schiff have performed with the Orchestra in Israel. The Galilee Orchestra’s impact also extends throughout Israeli society: its performances bring classical music to students in peripheral regions, enriches communities with burgeoning cultural scenes, invites audiences together for a shared musical experience, and serves as a model for cooperation and cultural exchange in Israel and abroad. The Orchestra’s work also aims to enhance the status of Nazareth as a culture capital of Israel’s Gaillee Region.
In the summer of 2019, the Galilee Chamber Orchestra reached a significant milestone with its first European tour. The Orchestra traveled to Germany for performances at the Konzerthaus Berlin, the Christuskirche Hannover, the Osnabrück Music Festival, and at the Rheingau Festival.