While the Boston Symphony Orchestra scrapes by on $80m a year, and the Philadelphia Orchestra overshoots its income of $33m with expenses of $46m the remarkable Kimbangist Symphony Orchestra manage a lot more on a lot less.
In the words of British photojournalist Marcus Bleasdale, whose prizewinning pictures of the orchestra you can view online:
"In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country utterly destroyed by war, pillage and corruption the mere existence of The Kimbangist Symphony Orchestra seems like a miracle. Founded in 1994 the orchestra consists of about 80 instrumentalists and a chorus of about 60 members. Most have paid for instruments out of their own pockets, others rely on Albert Matubanza (pictured above by Marcus Bleasdale) who taught himself how to build string instruments using wood from the local market and cable wire to replace broken strings. Scores of Händel’s “Messiah”, Verdi’s “Nabucco” or Mozart’s “Requiem” are often copied by hand. The orchestra is committed to popularizing classical music in their country".
The orchestra is the subject of a recent German documentary, Kinshasa Symphony, currently doing the film festival rounds (but sadly not scheduled for British release).
The PBS video below explains more about what the orchestra means to its members.