DR.Congo orchestra brings Mozart to heart of Africa

by David Youant, Sun Feb 21, 10:03 am ET

KINSHASA (AFP) – In Kinshasa, home of the swaying Congolese rumba, 200 people at a local church have succeeded in creating a concert hall orchestra to bring Handel, Beethoven and Mozart to the heart of Africa.

They are a motley mix of dressmakers and shopkeepers, pupils and students, hairdressers and civil servants, all part of an orchestra which tackles great works from Western classical tradition.

In their black suits and satin gowns, they have been playing to increasing acclaim since they were formed 16 years ago.

"In Africa and even in the world, you'll never see an orchestra like ours, consisting entirely of blacks," proclaimed Armand Diangienda, musical director of the Kimbanguist Symphony Orchestra (OSK) which he helped found in 1994.

"It's an orchestra of amateurs," he added, "but it's not just any orchestra that can play Beethoven and Mozart."

Diangienda, 46, is a grandson of Simon Kimbangu, founder of the Kimbanguist church, which claims about 10 million followers in the Democratic Republic of Congo's population of 60 million.

The church may be controversial -- its beliefs are based on Simon Kimbangu, who is seen as a black prophet -- but its orchestra has won widespread backing from all kinds who go to concerts or attend Sunday services when it plays.

Still, the musicians' public consists mainly of white people and they also attract foreign conductors, some of whom have made the trip to the shores of the Congo river to lead them in concert.

Antoine Malungane, 46, a nurse by training and a double bass player in the orchestra since its creation, fondly remembers the 2001 visit of US conductor Michael Morgan, musical director of the Oakland Philharmonic Orchestra.

Having started out with just a dozen musicians, including five violinists, but now numbering scores, the leaders of the OSK did not expect the orchestra "to take on these proportions," Malungane said.

A documentary film entitled "Kinshasa Symphony," made in the capital in the summer and autumn of 2009 by German directors Claus Winsmann and Martin Baer, is showing at the current Berlin Film Festival.

The film shows the daily lives of some of the 185 instrumental players and the 110 chorists, including rehearsals and how they manage to reconcile their passion with their professional activities.

"The musicians didn't come here to earn a wage, but rather to glorify God," said Armand Diangienda, a trained pilot and a self-trained musician and a big fan of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

According to Diangienda, who has conducted Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and the Blue Danube waltz by Strauss, "classical music is a way for us to express our joy and our woes."

Some people, like 40-year-old chorist Angele Yala, say they get "spiritual motivation" from the musical sessions.

Between two rehearsals of the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's "Messiah," colleague Aurelie Bode, who has spent 13 of her 27 years singing in the choir, declares, "It's only death that will separate me from the OSK."


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screening at the opening ceremony of the "German Film Week" in Bujumbura, Burundi @ 7pm (19h) - with Martin Baer and Pascal Capitolin!

Theatrical release in France! ! !

The children of an elementary school in Berlin-Steglitz, "Grundschule am Insulaner", have collected 600€ to support the music school project of the orchestra!

Best Documentary
at the 11th Image et Vie Film Festival in Dakar, Sénégal!

Theatrical release in Austria on May, 20th!

... and another Audience Award! This time in Pessac/France at Palmarés-Du Festival de cinéma jeune public-Les Toiles Filantes!

Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature at the RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem, USA!

Kinshasa Symphony wins two awards at the 25th Bolzano Film Festival:"Best Documentary" and Audience Award!

Kinshasa Symphony has won two more awards! The World Gold Medal at the New York Festival in the category documentaries as well as the Award for the Best Artistic Achievement from the city of Potsdam.

Twitter News from RiverRun Film Festival:
"Met a woman who drove up from Atlanta (530 km distance) with her daughter just to watch "Kinshasa Symphony" today!"

Theatrical release in France in September!

Beautiful segment about Kinshasa Symphony on NYC's classical music station WQXR.

Armand Diangienda will be attending 2 festivals in the US in April: The AFF in NY and RiverRun Int. Film Festival in Winston-Salem!!!

Kinshasa Symphony has won the Jury Award at the 2011 Salem Film Fest!

Kinshasa Symphony is nominated for the GERMAN FILM AWARD 2011!

Kinshasa Symphony is preselected for the German film award Lola.

Theatrical release in Belgium January 2011!

CMJ Music&Film Festival, New York, announces Kinshasa Symphony as "Best Documentary" in the Audience Poll!

WDR musicians back from Kinshasa! Trip and work with the Orchestra a huge success!

Closing Film at the European Film Festival in Göttingen/Germany. Sold out again!

Two sold out screenings at the EthnoFilmFest in Munich and apparently a record in visitors and positive feedback!

Screening at Free Zone Festival in Belgrade: "The screening was really great. Our audience loved the film. I can say that Kinshasa Symphony was one of the hit films at Free zone."

November 2010: Theatrical Release in Switzerland!

"Special Jury Mention" for creative dramatic illustration of the survival topic at "Flahertiana" Film Festival in Perm, Russia!

"VIFF Most Popular Nonfiction Film Award" in Vancouver!

Kinshasa Symphony is the Audience Favourite at the "10th Festival des Deutschen Films" in Buenos Aires!

Our first need at betterplace.org has been completed. Thanks to everyone for the donations and support!

Great cinema release! Kinshasa Symphony in 6th place at this week's Arthouse-Movie-Charts!

"Kinshasa Symphony...the best musical documentary since Rhythm is it!" - Deutschlandradio

Theatrical Release in Germany

Now donations for the orchestra possible at betterplace.org!

"Kinshasa Symphony" is nominated for the Erasmus EuroMedia Awards 2010.

The 6th Jecheon International Music & Film Festival presents the Grand Prize to "Kinshasa Symphony" from the International Competition section, "World Music Film Today".

Rhode Island Int. Film Festival 2010:
Grand Prize "Best Cinematography"
goes to "Kinshasa Symphony"
The 2010 Flickers: Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF) announced the winners in this year’s film competition at its annual Awards Ceremony in downtown Providence, RI. The festival ran August 10th-15th and showcased over 200 cinematic works, including 35 World and 23 US/North American Premieres. The films were selected from a record entry base of over 4200 international submissions.

Filmmusik verbindet die Festivals in aller Welt: bei den Oberaudorfer Musikfilmtagen spielt die Jugendblaskapelle Filmmusikklassiker - zur Eroeffnung des Jecheon International Music & Film Festivals in Korea gibt es ebenfalls Filmmusik, diesmal gespielt auf koreanischen Saiteninstrumenten.
Beide Festivals sind noch jung. Beide sind ausgesprochen gastfreundlich und wunderbar musikorientiert. Fantastisch, dass beide Kinshasa Symphony zeigen! In Bayern mit deutschen Untertiteln, in Jecheon mit koreanischen.

Kinshasa Symphony erhält eine "Lobende Erwähnung" beim Phoenix-Dokumentarfilmpreis 2010. >>>

Pascal Capitolin stellt Kinshasa Symphony beim Durban International Film Festival vor: "Die erste Vorstellung fand vor vierhundert Schülern statt, die danach vor allem fragten, wieso Schwarze klassische Musik statt Rap oder ähnlichem spielen. Der Film kam sehr gut bei ihnen an - und gelacht wurde an ganz anderen Stellen als in Europa. In Südafrika haben schon erstaunlich viele Menschen von "Kinshasa Symphony" gehört."

Kinshasa Symphony hat seine Premiere im Kongo.
Der Film läuft "open air" am 20.7., dann als Gala-Vorstellung für das gesamte Orchester am 21. Juli im "Hotel Venus" und am 22. Juli im "Centre Culturel Wallonie-Bruxelles" fileadmin/user_upload/pdfs/PM_Filmvorfuehrung_in_Kinshasa.pdf>>>

Kinshasa Symphony erhält den Publikumspreis beim „Festival des Deutschen Films“ >>>

Special Mention: Kinshasa Symphony "The jury was very enthusiastic about the portrayal of the creative musicians in Congo."

Kinshasa Symphony opens the prestigious "Visions du Réel" festival in Nyon (Switzerland) on 15 April 2010 

8.3.2010 World premier of Kinshasa Symphony a complete success: two showings completely sold out, keen interest from the audience

Kinshasa Symphony selected for Berlinale 2010
The film “Kinshasa Symphony” celebrates its world premiere at “Berlinale Special” on February 17th 2010, 21:45h (rerun February 18th, 18:00h, Cubix 8)

The team is back in Berlin and the postproduction has started already.

The second phase of filming in
Kinshasa has begun. Fortunately, the rains have held off. Rehearsals, outside shots, short musician portraits and a new protagonist: a tubist with his own pharmacy. And: the cameraman still has both his shoes.

sounding images GmbH has succeeded in bringing the Kinshasa Symphony project to the attention of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin. The orchestra gave the filming team a crate with collected instruments for L’Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste. A long-term partnership is planned between the two orchestras. An instrument maker is also to travel to
Kinshasa to offer support and advice locally.

sounding images has succeeded in securing the patronage of the German Commission for UNESCO for the Kinshasa Symphony project. This makes us very proud.

The first leg of the filming is over. With the exception of one of the cameraman’s shoes that got lost on the flight back, the team and their equipment have returned unscathed…

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