Last sectional rehearsals this morning and the rest of the day was spent practicing the chamber music programme and with tutti rehearsals of the Beethoven and the Authman commission. There are now three film crews on site, all trying to get out of each others way and stay out of each others shot.

Cam and I exchanged a bus ride to lunch for an impromptu taxi ride around Erbil during which we learned that there are at least three restaurants called the “Astiera” in Erbil – because the two that we tried were definitely not the ones where the rest of the team were having lunch. in the end we bailed back to the hotel just in time to welcome the entire orchestra back – fed and happy.

For some reason, all the pairs of trousers I brought with me to Iraq are getting ripped at the knees, so along with Adam and Cam we traipsed down to BRZ (Tesco clone) to buy some stuff. I was not in luck in the trouser department as it seems that the average waist size of the Kurdish gent is substantially smaller than mine. Looks like I am going to have to buy some time with gaffer tape. Ended up buying some Coke, Fanta and some McVities Digestives. Walking back to the hotel we passed an elderly gentleman in traditional dress.

Mark: Was that an AK47 that chap was holding?
Adam: Yes, I think it was.
Mark: Righty ho then.

After the rehearsal we were treated to a performance of Bach suites on the double bass by Richard “Dobbs” Hartshorne ( who is the bass tutor. Dobbs also played two “comedic musical stories” – one in Arabic and one in Kurdish – which are a fascinating blend of words, song, percussion and melody – all played on the bass and sung by Dobbs in the native languages of the students. I really am going to have to expand my knowledge of Kurdish and Arabic! The message Dobbs gave us before the performance was very poignant and right on the nail – there are some places in the world where music is so vitally important to the well-being of people and this is no more true than in places like Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq. This is why Dobbs has a “one man show” outreach which he takes to US schools, prisons and to overseas locations such as Palestine and Afghanistan.

The evening was spent at Karda’s place eating Turkish pizza. Karda is a project manager for the British Council in Kurdistan and is closely involved with the orchestra locally. He lives very close to the hotel with his wife and young son. Karda kindly introduced us to his smallholding of one sheep, about 6 chickens, a rooster and a goat. Karda used to have 6 sheep, but now is down to one. The goat is quite talented and is able to balance on two legs while reaching up for food and the rooster crows at any given opportunity but with the talent the goat displayed this evening my money is on the sheep not making it past the next big dinner event.