African Rhythms in Beethoven

Reading the paper this morning I stumbled over this article : “The Making of Kinshasa Symphony”.

©sounding image

Not your usual surroundings for classical music! Their players have to struggle through days of which I can only begin to imagine the difficulties, and still manage to meet up almost every evening to rehearse together – for about 15 years now. It shows how powerful music can be.

It reminds me of stories from my first singing teacher. Born 1908 he witnessed the situation in Germany after the second world war. Having lost almost everything himself – his house burned down in one of the last air raids – only his wife and one of his children survived.  With three fellow singers he formed a quartet – sometimes with, sometimes without piano accompaniment. They gave concerts nearly every night and nearly everywhere after peace was declared: in bombed-out basements, bars, in the open air and in smaller and larger concert halls (or what was left standing of them). He kept telling me of the craving people had for music, for beauty. Despite all the bombed-out quarters, devastation, humiliation and food rations people flocked to those concerts.

He could get upset (in various degrees of anger) if you treated music disrespectfully, if you didn’t bother to do your homework (research of all things involved in that particular piece of music e.g. all sorts of embellishments), if you didn’t learn it properly, but most of all if you were lazy and didn’t invest yourself in the piece.  His most cruel phrase to me was “That was only very good.” (Compared to my sister’s violin teacher that was nothing: I saw him yell at a student  – who’s only fault it was to be somehow mentally absent – that he’d rather have it she’d be a cleaner and do that properly than messing up this concerto. So I guess in this I was more fortunate!)

What does it have to do with this film? Everything. It made me realise how fortunate we actually are. We don’t have to struggle for survival and yet we don’t invest half as much as these people into the things we’re passionate about – most of the time.

Watching the trailer of this film,  now presented at the Berlin Film Festival (coming to the German cinemas in May or June), brought tears to my eyes. 

“As soon as I am singing I forget my problems. When I am sick and I listen to music, it gives me strength.” Mireille Ikina soprano

This is why we make music. It’s good to see that there are people out there to show you why it’s worth to keep on struggling to make it happen.  Enjoy!

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