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At a glance: France

Goodwill Ambassador Myung Whun Chung gives Paris concert to benefit projects in Benin

© UNICEF France/2009/Arrivé
Maestro Myung Whun Chung (at right) and orchestra members applaud opera singers who performed during a benefit concert by the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra at Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.

PARIS, France, 20 April 2009 – The Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Myung-Whun Chung, recently gave a gala performance with celebrated French opera singers Natalie Dessay, Laurent Naouri and Stephane Degout to raise funds for UNICEF water and sanitation projects in Benin.

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Maestro Chung, a world-renowned conductor, was appointed as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in April 2008. Under his direction, the singers and 140-strong orchestra performed works by Berlioz, Thomas, Gounod, Massenet, Verdi and Donizetti.

The Easter Saturday concert drew more than 1,500 people, including one special invitee, Fashola Djima, mayor of the remote rural district of Adja Ouèrè in Benin. He had travelled from his home to attend the special event at Theatre du Chatelet, one of the most famous concert halls in France.

“I spent a whole day with the mayor,” Maestro Chung said, recalling his trip to Benin last December. “By the end of the day, I asked him to just tell me what was the top-priority the population had to address. And he said it was drinkable water. Consequently, I discussed this with the musicians of the orchestra, and we decided to make things happen through music.”

© UNICEF France/2009/Arrivé
World-renowned conductor Myung Whun Chung, shown here at the Easter Saturday benefit concert in Paris, was appointed as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in April 2008.

History behind the concert

The President of the French National Committee for UNICEF, Jacques Hintzy, introduced the concert with welcoming remarks. “This evening,” he said, “two wonderful universes that both require curiosity, total investment, need for achievement and absolute truth will meet – music and childhood.”

Mr. Hintzy recounted the history behind the concert, including Maestro Chung’s December trip to Benin, which provided an opportunity for many children to listen to a classical music performance for the first time.

In the eyes of these children, who live with the effects of extreme poverty, “one could read something like happiness,” Mr. Hintzy said. He went on to thank all the partners involved for their strong support for UNICEF and urged the audience to give to each child the means for fulfilment – in order to “once again see in their eyes the hope for a better future.”

‘This exceptional moment’

UNICEF Representative in Benin Dr. Souleymane Diallo, who attended the concert, congratulated Maestro Chung and his team for their commitment.

“I am also proud to be present to witness firsthand this exceptional moment,” said Dr. Diallo. “I strongly believe in partnership, and what has been achieved today, less than four months after Maestro Chung’s visit to Benin, is a proof of what human beings can do when they show dedication to a cause.”

Added Maestro Chung: “Going to the field is essential. Have contact with people, then you will know concretely how to help them in a non-abstract approach that makes a difference.”

All the funds raised at the Paris concert will be used to boost UNICEF programmes in Benin, including a project to make potable water available to a population of more than 60,000 people in Adja Ouèrè.

Funds from the event will also be used to scale up projects run by the Salesian Sisters to rehabilitate girls who have been victims of trafficking and exploitation.




11 April 2009:
UNICEF correspondent Amy Bennett reports on the concert held by Maestro Myung Whun Chung in Paris to raise funds for water projects in Benin.
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