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Peter Gabriel meets Kinshasa

Today, a group of translators and sixteen members of the Kinshasa Symphony wound their way up the Pacific Coast to rehearse and record “In Your Eyes” with Peter Gabriel, culminating in a benefit to raise funds to bring the entire group (almost 200 musicians strong!) back to the U.S. for concerts in June. It was a remarkable experience to hear them play and have a chance to get to know them a bit. But first, a few of the people responsible for bringing them here:

 

01 Michelle Rivet Instruments of Peace

Michelle Rivet, Co-Founder of Instruments of Peace

Michelle Rivet co-founded Instruments of Peace with the purpose of bringing music to volatile regions of our planet so that one will pick up a musical instrument and not a weapon against another person. Michelle works with the founder of Architecture for Humanity, Cameron Sinclair:

Cameron Sinclair, Founder of Architects for Humanity

Cameron Sinclair, Founder of Architects for Humanity

 

Cameron’s organization designs and constructs all kinds of structures for disaster and poverty stricken communities across the globe.

 

Together, with the help of many others, including Ken Kragen with USA for Africa, this man’s dream has become a reality:

 

Armand Diangienda remains cool under close camera scrutiny

Armand Diangienda remains cool under close camera scrutiny

 

Music Director of the Kinshasa Symphony and certified commercial pilot (he informed me he had logged 158 hours in and around Miami, FL), Armand Diangienda is totally driven by the power of music:

 

Armand Diangienda, Music Director of the Kinshasa Symphony

 

 

Having taught himself how to play the piano at age five, Armand has grown to become the leader of almost 200 members of his “Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste,” named after his grandfather Simon Kimbangu. Starting in his home with a small group of only 12 members, Maestro Diangienda and his orchestra have been profiled by 60 Minutes and been the subject of a feature-length documentary. Now, having been brought to Southern California to take part in this week’s TED conference in Long Beach, a select group of string players had the opportunity to learn one of Peter Gabriel’s own arrangements of “In Your Eyes” and record it with the man himself. That’s where we came in: our job was to coach the players and get everybody ready for the recording session this afternoon. And here are the coaches:

 

L to R: Ron Clark, David Ewart and leader Sid Page on violin, Karie Prescott on viola, Stevie Edelman on bass, Cecilia Tsan on cello

L to R: Ron Clark, David Ewart and leader Sid Page on violin, Karie Prescott on viola, Stevie Edelman on bass, Cecilia Tsan on cello

 

Richard Gibbs, co-founder of Instruments of Peace, hosted the rehearsal and recording session in his home and gathered the coaches to help out and give suggestions here and there. We had a remarkable time getting to know the musicians and their crew. Here they are, having just arrived at the studio, arranging themselves in the recording space:

 

Getting comfortable in the studio

 

All of the musicians were dressed in sharp black suits, but they had the opportunity to show a little of their personality in their socks and shoes:

 

06 Kinshasa Symphony shoes and socks

 

 

A few of the coaches brought instruments for the orchestra members to use for the session; a welcome change from their instruments handmade at home:

 

This bassist couldn’t stop playing Stevie Edelman’s bass

 

The focus and energy exhibited by the musicians were electrical:

 

09 Kinshasa Symphony Violinist

 

10 Kinshasa Symphony Violinists

 

11 Kinshasa Symphony Violists

 

 

After an orchestra-only run through, singers Julie Fordham and Michael Now joined for a second pass:

 

Richard Gibbs, left, smiles and adds percussion to the run-through with singers Julie Fordham and Michael Now

At left is Richard Gibbs, Co-Founder of Instruments of Peace, smiling and adding percussion to the run-through with singers Julie Fordham and Michael Now

 

 

Singer Michael Now emotes during "In Your Eyes"

Singer Michael Now emotes during “In Your Eyes”

 

Singer Julie Fordham adds elegant brilliance to the vocal mix

Singer Julie Fordham adds elegant brilliance to the vocal mix

 

After these few run-throughs, the coaches had a chance to give a couple pointers:

 

Leader Sid Page with score

Leader Sid Page with score

 

16 Kinshasa Symphony Violin takes note

 

 

After a moment of calm following the coaching, Peter Gabriel came to lend his voice to the afternoon:

 

Peter Gabriel Sings

Peter Gabriel Sings

 

The ensemble went through a couple times, matching the soloist with the group; Armand did a fantastic job of joining everyone together:

 

18 Armand Diangienda Conducts and Wonders

 

 

After the session, we had a chance to relax and have a laugh or two:

 

Peter Gabriel and Armand Diangienda share a laugh together

Peter Gabriel and Armand Diangienda share a laugh together

 

Cellist Cecilia Tsan and music director Armand Diangienda

Cellist Cecilia Tsan and music director Armand Diangienda

 

Two musical giants: Armand Diangienda and Peter Gabriel

Two musical giants: Armand Diangienda and Peter Gabriel

 

Overall, a totally inspirational time: a meeting of different worlds, an exchange of cultures. Fantastic!

 

 

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  1. It was such and honor and a joy to be part of this amazing adventure! I was deeply moved by the Kinshasa Symphony musicians’ love for music. I hope to continue to share music and joy with my new friends from Congo.Music as a universal language for peace and love: I cannot hope for better as a musician! Cheers to Armand and his wonderful orchestra!
    Cécilia Tsan

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