Classical Music in the Congo

How many students are less than enthusiastic when urged to go into the next room for music practice?   Can you imagine walking several miles each way, six days a week just to go to choir practice?  Or tending to an infant and two other young children while practicing violin?  I was moved to tears as I watched and listened to the recent  CBS 60 Minutes story about a symphony that emerged from nothing but a dream and the deep desire in the human heart for beauty.

A Congolese pilot had been exposed to classical music on his ventures away from home.  Due to circumstances in his war torn country he was no longer able to fly, but  he  had some sheet music and a dream of having a symphony in his home town.  He invited members of his church to join him.  He did not know how to read music and he had no musical training  – none of them did.  They had very few instruments, but amazingly the symphony evolved.  They taught themselves how to read music and play a variety of  instruments.  They took turns practicing everyday on the few instruments they shared.   Violins, horns, flutes and other instruments began trickling in, some in dire need of repair.  They rebuilt and repaired the items they were given with amazing ingenuity and resourcefulness.

I was convicted when I considered my myriad of excuses for failing to learn to play the digital wonder that sits in my living room.   These people overcame every kind of obstacle to create an oasis of beauty for themselves.  Years of diligent effort individually and as a community has produced abundant blessing.  What they pursued for their own edification and enjoyment in the midst of devastating circumstances has brought hope and happiness to not only them and their community, but to people throughout the world.

It was thrilling to hear the powerful voices, skillfully played woodwinds, strings and other members of this volunteer symphony perform complex classical pieces.  The glory of the music was augmented by and reflective of the depth of beauty within the souls of these wonderful people.  The sparkle in their eyes, the sweetness in their smile, the love and gratitude for the music shining in each face was inspiring.   The reporter rightly stated that certainly there are symphonies that have played with greater skill, but none with greater joy.