This morning I was treated to an extraordinary story; that of the Kinshasa Symphony orchestra. This astonishing story combined hope, vision and the power of music over adversity. Read a report of the story here.
The orchestra is based in the Democratic Republic of Congo: a country destroyed by poverty and war; it is the world’s first all black symphony orchestra and is now internationally respected in the music world. Initially the players played on home made instruments and they have built a formidable reputation. Amazing how the power of music focused the players to do this.
The orchestra was founded by Armand Diangienda in 1994 and initially, the majority of the audience was made up of ex-patriot foreigners but now it has built up a loyal following of Congolese, who have got to know the classical music and really appreciate it. When the orchestra began, 12 violinists shared five instruments; each player rehearsed for 20 minutes before passing it on to another player. Some instruments were home made or were second hand imports from China.
The BBC article includes an interview with Diangienda, who shows how powerful music, and music making has been, in a country where life is tough and some of his comments reveal how challenging the work conditions are for his orchestra. “It is difficult to get [to rehearsals] on time because of the transport. A lot of the musicians are students or they’re selling things in the market, so they can’t necessarily arrive on time because of other commitments. There might be someone who’s rushed to the rehearsal from work and hasn’t had time to eat, so that puts other pressures on. And then everybody’s ready and everything’s set up – the power cuts!” It is therefore inspirational that despite the environment, the orchestra produces world class performances. Diangienda provides the answer: “The thing that really gets us through all this is a real passion for the music“.
The orchestra have arrived in UK for their first UK tour. They are currently based in Manchester and are working alongside the Halle Orchestra, where instruments are being expertly repaired and they are playing alongside Halle players. There are language barriers but a Congolese cellist sums it up by saying “It doesn’t matter if you come to England and you don’t speak English because we all speak music. It’s a universal language.”
In a world that focuses on the undoubted benefits of sport, it is important to remember the power of music. Mentally and physically it creates ‘feel good’ endorphins when participating or listening; participating creates an immediate ‘community’ whether this is an orchestra, band or choir and the language of music crosses cultural barriers. Let’s celebrate this!
I’d love to hear your opinion of this. Do you play in an orchestra or sing in a choir? If you like this blog why not subscribe to our newsletter.