44-year Old Abu Dhabi’s Music Group Cherishes Cultural Legacy Of UAE’s Initial Years

44-year old Abu Dhabi’s music group cherishes cultural legacy of UAE’s initial years

By Binsal Abdulkader ABU DHABI, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News / WAM - 10th Jul, 2021) As the UAE is celebrating its 50th anniversary, a 44-year-old amateur music group in Abu Dhabi is cherishing the legacy of a cultural environment conducive to creative pursuits, emerged during the initial years after the country’s formation.

"For a group like this to exist for so many years is a testament to the fact that this country and its rulers have made the UAE an open and welcoming place for everybody. The passion and love of making music together is what holds the group and has made it successful over the years, since 1977," Caroline Kelly, current chairperson and Musical Director of the Abu Dhabi Choral Group (ADCG), tells Emirates news Agency (WAM).

Representing city’s diversity The ADCG has been encouraging music-loving Emiratis and residents of all nationalities in Abu Dhabi to unleash their musical talents, and even introducing freshers to the world of music.

Although originally established by American and British expatriates in the capital, the community music group now represents the diversity of the city, adds Kelly who is from the UK.

"Our members are from all over the world. Anybody from any country is welcome to join our group. We've got members from Canada, the US, the UK, different European countries, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries," explains Kelly, who joined ADCG, along with her husband, when they reached Abu Dhabi six years ago.

Platform for global friendship Even when members move away from Abu Dhabi, the friendship made in the group always stays, she adds.

"When they have moved on either back to their home country or with their job to a new country, for me and other members, those friendships open up a whole array of holiday destinations that you have been able to visit. So, I visited friends in Australia, Canada, Ireland and the US. I've got friends now in Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Malaysia, and literally across the world. It's amazing."

Evolution of music since 1970s Like the diversity of the members, the music has also evolved over the years. "It has certainly evolved from its sort of creation back in 1977 when there were mainly concerts and more classical Christmas concerts. Then they sort of did more classical operas."

"But more recently we've sort of really made it more modern musical theatre, putting on the more modern shows that people have heard of. Everyone here wants to take part in live theatre. It is that [evolution] what keeps the group going," explains Kelly who is also the Director of Performing Arts at Raha International School in Abu Dhabi.

Longest-standing member Most of the founders of the group have already left the UAE and a remaining one could not be reached for comments.

Currently, the longest-serving member is Cat Downing, a South African medical professional.

"When I arrived in Abu Dhabi 13 years ago and attended an ADCG rehearsal on my second night in the city with my new roommate, I had no idea that the venture would lead to me being the current longest-standing member of the choir!" she says.

With a background in nursing and the beat of South Africa in her veins, Downing has been an avid singer from the age of five, when she performed weekly with her dad’s church choir group. Although she used to play guitar and work more behind the scenes during her childhood and teenage years for school productions, ADSG encouraged her to take up more proactive roles.

She has mostly served on the board as well, in various capacities, including secretary, venue coordinator and treasurer.

Introducing freshers to world of music Unlike Kelly and Downing who already had a musical background, for many freshers, ADCG has opened the doors to the world of music.

"Some of our members are like me, professionally trained musicians, but others are people who just like singing. There is no hard and fast rule. You must be amazing to be a member, you just have to want to be there. And we've got quite a few members that aren't musicians and not musically trained, they just enjoy it. And that's what it's all about for," explains Kelly.

With active membership currently averaging at 50 performers per season, the group currently presents two major performances each year: in the spring a traditionally staged Broadway musical and in the fall a concert-style musical review. The group used to conduct rehearsals on Monday evenings at the New York University Abu Dhabi campus.

Supporting Abu Dhabi’s plan to be a cultural hub However, since the beginning of the current global pandemic, rehearsals and programmes have moved to online.

"We are eagerly waiting for catching up with all friends and conducting in-person rehearsals and events," Kelly says.

When ADCG moved to virtual performances, Downing found a new opportunity. She took it upon herself to learn video editing and put together virtual concerts.

"I cannot wait to get back to live performances, but I am grateful that the pandemic led me to the acquisition of an additional skillset!" She says.

The group is currently rehearsing for the next virtual concert, entitled, "Scene it! Sing it!"

While Abu Dhabi’s plan to become a major centre of cultural excellence within the next decade is in full effect, the group wants to play a role in bringing that plan to fruition by enhancing awareness and appreciation of musical performance.

"It would be a pleasure to be part of that kind of big cultural project of the emirate," Kelly continues.