Hamed's children grew up with Al Sharif Shaker’s children. Solhi and Shaker’s son Prince Zeid Bin Shaker, who was born in the same year as Solhi, grew up as brothers. They were inseparable. They went to school together, then to London together where Zeid Bin Shaker went to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. Zeid and Solhi remained best friends until Zeid’s sudden death in September 2002. By then Solhi was incapacitated, and he was never told of Zeid’s demise.
Solhi with his childhood and school friends: Zeid Bin Shaker in military uniform in the 1st picture. Ghazi Shaker in all 3 pictures.
At VC he joined his best friend Zeid and was class mates with the likes of King Hussein of Jordan, Sultan Qaboos of Oman, Hisham Nazer, Adnan Khashouggi, Ghazi Shaker and many of the Arab aristocracy of that generation. Despite that, he remained a rebel; smacking the future king of Jordan in the face when he inadvertently broke one of his precious old 78 rpm speed classical recordings, and repeatedly attempting to run away from the regimental system that was in place by the British administration at VC. One time he made his own way to Cairo on a train trying to con his way back home.
During his time at VC he developed his love for music, and to silence those detractors who considered him less than manly because of his love for music he played his way to become captain of the VC senior football team. By all accounts he had a lethal left foot!
Solhi with the various trophies won in football. In the 1st and 3rd picture Solhi is to the left of the man in the suit. In the middle picture Solhi is between the 2 men in suits.
In the summers Solhi used to return to Damascus and he soon mixed with the fledgling classical music enthusiasts and other members of a revolutionary movement with a love for the fine arts, people like Sadek Faroun and Rafah Qasawat. Sameem Al-Sharif, who was a childhood friend of Solhi’s, and who later married his sister Huda, was instrumental in getting this group together. Sadek and Rafah played the violin while Solhi played the viola and conducted. They persevered and eventually, with 3 instruments, played the Introduction to Boildieu’s “Calif of Bagdad” and the 2nd movement of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony at the Ommayad Hotel in front of an astonished public. In the late 1940’s this quartet started the serious classical music movement in Syria.
Shortly after that his father sent him to London. Solhi was sent to London to study agriculture with the view that he would eventually return to Iraq to manage the farmlands his father had developed and nurtured. But Solhi had other ideas and greater ambitions. Unbeknown to his father Solhi enrolled to study at the Royal Academy of Music. He had a love for conducting; he also loved the sound of the viola. So he studied both as well as composition. And when his father found out that he is not studying agriculture and threatened to stop his allowance, he started studying agriculture as well.
It was during this time that Solhi met my mother Cynthia, a Welsh born young lady from English parentage, who had earned a scholarship to study the piano at the Royal Academy of Music.
Solhi brought into the Conservatory foreign specialists; piano teachers, violin teachers, cello teachers, music theory teachers, etc. mostly from the former Soviet Union. By the late 1960’s many of the Conservatory students were being dispatched to the Soviet Union, to further their studies, on government sponsored grants. He hoped that these students would return and take up teaching positions at the Conservatory while its student base grew and the Conservatory grew with it. Solhi would be repeatedly driven to despair when many of the students returned from abroad and joined local popular Arabic music bands, mostly because they were paid more money.
In 1995 President Assad honoured Solhi with Syria’s highest civilian award, the Order of Merit in its highest classification.
Dr. Najah Al-Attar, Vice President of the Syrian Arab Republic, then Minister of Culture, after bestowing the Order of Merit Medal upon Solhi
In 1999 the Komitas State Conservatory of Yerevan in Armenia awarded Solhi an Honorary Doctorate, and in 2000 the Russian Academy of Arts and Sciences granted him an Honorary Doctorate.
Solhi organized many of his concerts in churches around the world, and in particular in Damascus. He had a particular love for chorale music, and requiems. This led to him being recognized and honoured by leaders of the various churches in Syria.