Los Angeles Times

Dozens of musicians have fled or been killed. Yet, in war-torn Syria, the orchestra plays on

DAMASCUS, Syria - Linda Bitar sat up in her chair behind a pair of timpani and took a deep breath as the swell of the violins reached a climax.

"Ihkili, Ihkili, aan baladi ihkili," she sang, the lilt of the nai, an oriental flute, blending with the words:

"Tell me, tell me, about my country tell me. Tell me about my family, tell me about my house ... swear to me you'll tell me about the olive tree."

The song, a moving lament for those who've left their homeland behind, seemed a fitting choice for Bitar and the other musicians assembled one crisp morning at Damascus' opera house. As the last remaining members of Syria's National Orchestra, they have watched seven years of civil war hollow out their lives and slowly mute the music they once played.

Dozens of

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