Home to the Mesopotamian civilizations and host to the Babylonian, Mongolian, Ottoman and British Empires, Iraq’s religious and cultural diversity is a result of its equally diverse history. In the face of political hardship, Iraqi music continues to flourish as symphonic ensembles continue to play traditional maqam music as well as the works of Western composers.

In 2003, Classical Movements arranged the landmark tour of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra to the United States. In just under two months, accommodations, concerts and flights out of Iraq were arranged for the entire orchestra.  Despite the disheartening circumstances that had befallen these musicians, they performed valiantly and to much acclaim in Washington, D.C. and New York City. Their joint concert with the National Symphony Orchestra and Yo-Yo Ma at the Kennedy Center was attended by President George W. Bush and introduced by Secretary of State Colin Powell. Along with a successful tour, a charitable trust gifted each member of the orchestra with a new instrument, while another organization created an archive of more than 500 musical scores for the orchestra.

Classical Movements has been traveling to the Middle East since 1994, first with its brochure program under Blue Heart Tours. It has organized 50 different trips with individualized itineraries in recent years for the Collegiate Chorale, Yale Symphony Orchestra, Yale Alumni Chorus, George Washington University, Yale Glee Club and the Yale Institute of Music (among others).

Sights & Sounds

  • Baghdad
  • Ruins of ancient Babylon
  • Holy sites in Karbala and Najaf
  • Birthplace of Mesopotamian civilization
  • Iraqi National Theater
  • Kurdish culture in Erbil
  • Ancient city of Nineveh


“Thank you for inviting us to participate in this wonderful IHLOMBE festival.  Musically, we, the Morgan State University Choir had an opportunity to hear some very fine choirs from South Africa and the United States. Culturally, we visited places that will change our lives forever…I personally know how much time and effort went into every detail of this trip.  You have given the students of these choir memories that will last a lifetime.”

-Morgan State University Choir

“I wanted to take a moment to let you know how much I enjoyed traveling with the choir to the Middle East…The travel arrangements were first rate, and it was obvious much thought was put into making sure we saw a wide sampling of each area we visited and experienced the culture and the people. Thank you, again, for making the choir’s travels an experience others can share. Insha’llah (God willing) I will be able to do this again.”

-Guest Traveler


“The Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra visit involved a human element that transcended the usual business of arranging orchestra tours for Neeta Helms, executive vice president of Classical Movements. She ushered the musicians from their first nerve-wracking security checks at New York’s JFK Airport to their last tourist stop at Rockefeller Center on the way out of the country.”

-Symphony Magazine, Rebecca Winzenreid | March, 2004