World’s first all-black orchestra visits UK for first time

The Kinshasa Symphony Orchestra and Choir, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, is making its first visit to the UK during September. The world’s first all-black symphony orchestra, it will perform in venues in Manchester, London, Bristol and Cardiff.

The project is the result of a partnership between the Hallé, Southbank Centre, Bristol Music Trust, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and the Arts Council, and includes education workshops and events as well as instrument repair workshops.

The orchestra was founded in December 1994 by the group’s conductor Armand Djiangenda. Based in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital and whose population is among the poorest in the world, is Central Africa’s only symphony orchestra. Some of the musicians regularly walk for several hours, across one of the world’s most conflict-ridden areas, to attend rehearsals. The programmes performed during the visit will include traditional Congolese music alongside classical pieces, closing with the finale from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 Ode to Joy symbolising the promotion of peace and hope in a country torn apart by war and poverty.

You can watch the orchestra and choir performing Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana here and view a short film about some of the members of the orchestra here

An Exceptional award

The Arts Council helped to fund the trip with a grant of £357,600 through our Exceptional awards scheme – which enables us to help arts and cultural organisations in realising a one-off opportunities to create an ambitious project that is outside of its normal programming.

Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair, Arts Council England, said ‘Projects such as this one are brilliant examples of how the universal language of the arts brings people together, helping to create communities and ways to communicate across different cultures. We hope that the musicians taking part, and the audiences lucky enough to see one of the performances first hand, will be inspired by the shared experience.’

The tour

The orchestra is performing three concerts during its visit:

Manchester, 11 September
Performing with the Hallé and the Hallé Youth Choir at The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

London, 14 September
Performing with the Hallé Youth Choir and members of the BBC Concert Orchestra and National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at Southbank Centre, London

Bristol, 16 September
Performing with the Bristol Choral Society at Colston Hall, Bristol

The choir is performing one event:

Cardiff, 15 September
At the Royal Welsh College of Music, Cardiff

Links and more information

Visit the orchestra’s website, or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

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