This band of classical guitarists first appeared at concerts, events and festivals in Beirut, Lakatia and Damascus, performing with the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra and even releasing an album. When the Syrian conflict escalated in 2011, the group found themselves cancelling concerts at the last minute due to violent incursions. Both the guitarists and their families were at risk of being targeted by extremist groups, who believed that music was not something to be tolerated. The story of the Orontes Guitarists is one of of resilience and hope.  

 

Prairie Debut

Presented in collaboration with Prairie Debut

Nimble fretwork  …. blended beautifully as they played through an eclectic set for classical guitar.”

– Eagle Valley News

photos | Alia-Izoli

On making music in a conflict zone:


“The Quartet’s talent and onstage charisma soon created many concert opportunities, including an invitation to perform with the Syrian National Symphony at the Damascus Opera House. The night of that concert, I texted messages of encouragement as the group waited backstage …. I waited anxiously to hear how it all went, but many hours would pass before I finally learned what had happened: As they prepared to go onstage, mortars were fired into the crowd of 1,500 people waiting outside the concert hall. Without hesitation, the guys rushed into the crowd to offer assistance. When I asked Orwa later if he was afraid, he told me that there were so many people who needed help that there was no time to be afraid. Once the situation finally stabilized, they met the eyes of the conductor, who nodded solemnly. Together, they led their shattered audience into the opera house, where they performed
Concierto Andaluz beautifully.”

 

– Susan McDonald on the experience of the Orontes Guitarists, Classical Guitar Magazine

Imagine cello and piano performed with an expertise and intensity that venture into the sublime.
Orontes Guitarists

Like the river from which they take their name, these musicians have crossed borders and cultural divisions. Gaby Al Botros, Mohammed Mir Mahmoud, and Orwa Al Sharaa now bring their uplifting blend of baroque, flamenco and blues-inspired classical guitar to communities across their new land. 

The world-renowned U.S. classical guitarist and composer Susan McDonald, who teaches in conflict zones, encouraged the group to apply for the Artist Protection Fund. This organization helps threatened artists to find shelter in safe countries. After completing a meticulous application process, the guitarists were finally welcomed to a tenure as fellows-in-residence at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.  In 2024/25, they are touring as Prairie Debut artists, taking their music to communities across Western Canada.

 

 

 

The music of the Orontes Guitar Quartet is a testament to the power of art to bring people together and transcend borders. As they explore a new landscape, the musicians bring their message of hope and determination to audiences everywhere.