Posted by: jevcat | August 14, 2012

Kinshasa Symphony

I saw an amazing movie tonight, Kinshasa Symphony, that I wish everyone who cares about music and everyone who believes in the human spirit – and especially those who have stopped believing – could see.  It’s a German-made documentary in French and a Congolese language with English subtitles that may be the most moving film I have ever seen – I spent at least a third of it trying not to sob audibly and could not talk about it for nearly an hour without risk of bursting into tears.  And it’s funny, too.

Kinshasa Symphony tells the story of L’Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanuiste as it prepares for its first public concert – a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth (!) –  through the stories of its amateur musicians:  the founder/conductor, an airline pilot who had been laid off and built an orchestra from people who frequently could not even read music when they began; the first violinist, who tries, not altogether successfully, to explain what an octave is, but explains beautifully what Mozart means to him; the orchestra manager, who sacrificed his own double bass to serve as a template for making instruments they have no other way of obtaining; the electrician who couldn’t find a job so opened a hair salon and whose task it is, when the power (and lights) die during rehearsal, to put down his viola and go get the generator running before returning to his place in the orchestra; the dignified single mother who plays the flute and brings her young son with her to rehearsal and on her seemingly impossible search for a decent, affordable place for them to live – these people will break your heart and build a home there, bringing joy to fill the broken places with them as they succeed.

The showing to which I went was, in part, an effort by the Harlem Opera Theater (http://www.harlemoperatheater.org/) to raise money to bring the Kinshasa Symphony of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to New York, Boston, and maybe Washington, D.C. next year.  I have no money to spare right now, but if they hadn’t run out of pledge cards tonight, they’d have gotten some of my grocery money.  They still might.

If you can find it, see this movie; if you are able, contribute to bring these folks here.  Meanwhile, here’s a link to an NPR review with video clip.

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