Myanmar orchestra strikes an international chord

With hopes of cross-culture musical exchange, the Orchestra for Myanmar will kick off its first collaboration with the BBC Symphony Orchestra tonight at the Strand hotel.

The concert is a collaboration between the Orchestra for Myanmar, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the New Children’s Choir, Myanmar orchestra musicians and volunteer musicians from overseas.

Unlike years prior, this Orchestra for Myanmar concert will include eight BBC Symphony Orchestra musicians and over 100 professional and non professional musicians playing a variety of classical hits, including the stylings of Mozart.

The Orchestra for Myanmar was founded in 2015 by British violinist, Sebastian See-Schierenberg. The group performed their first show in 2015 at The National Theatre of Yangon.

The Children’s Choir was formed the following year.

Together the two musical projects are aimed at providing international-level training to Myanmar musicians and to connect young people from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.

Thus far, the orchestra and choir include musicians from Yangon Region, Kachin State, Karen State and more.  

Now the concert – organised by the British Embassy, the Embassy of Switzerland, SDC, Myanmar Music Trading and more – signals another cultural bridge between between Myanmar and BBC musicians.

The general manager of the London-based orchestra, Paul Hughes is excited by prospect of mutual exchange.

“My musicians are interested to be here and work with Myanmar’s orchestra,” Hughes said. “I’m hoping that while we’re here, we will encourage musicians to continue making music a priority in their lives.”

“Audiences will have to chance to support and get a feel for your kind of music – Western music – and to have that become a part of their lives…That’s why we’re here, to try to encourage as many people as possible to feel the passion of the music we make,” he added.

Other international musical volunteers include musicians and composers from the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, the Hong Kong Sinfonietta and the National Taipei University of Arts and Education.

Orchestra for Myanmar founder, Schierenberg said he tried to involve as many groups as possible for the concert, with a range of styles, skill sets, and genres.

Though the main focus of the concert is collaboration, it is also an opportunity for Myanmar musicians to show off their skills as well as chance to inspire a more rigorous study of classical music in the country.

“We’re trying to get the musicians to a professional standard so they can start touring to represent Myanmar abroad,” Schierenberg said. “One day they can go to Singapore or Thailand and they can show the country how it important it is to have a high-level cultural ambassador like this. I’ll do my best to make it happen.”

In addition at the start of the show Myanmar singer, composer and conductor and Myanmar Academy Award winner, Diramore will debut a new song.

Inspired by Myanmar traditional songs from the 1840s, Diramore’s debut song will be performed with orchestra instruments.

“I already intend to play our traditional songs with the international orchestra musicians,” he said. “It is really surprising to the audiences...and exciting for me to hear the song being played by an orchestra.”

The idea alone of a Myanmar traditional song being played by an international orchestra, Diramore said, is shocking in the country.

“There are still some people in Myanmar who love Western classical music but there are very few orchestras in our country,” he said.

“Now my dream can be fulfilled.”


The concert will start at 7pm on April 3, at Strand Hotel Ballroom with free entrance.