Central Africa's Democratic Republic of Congo is about the last place one would expect to find a symphony orchestra. Its civil war has raged for generations and monthly incomes there wouldn't be enough buy a cheap used violin. But when a laid-off local pilot's dream of playing classical music met up with a people's desire to transcend their bleak existence, the seed of a musical miracle took root in the capital city of Kinshasa 20 years ago. The result is the Kimbanguist Symphony Orchestra and a 60 Minutes story with elements of perseverance, music and joy perfectly suited for an Easter Sunday broadcast. Bob Simon reports "Joy in the Congo" on 60 Minutes, Sunday, April 8 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Today, the Kimbanguist Symphony Orchestra is the only symphony orchestra in Central Africa and the only all-black orchestra in the world. Its 200 volunteer musicians and vocalists practice six days a week and play regularly in a rented warehouse in Kinshasa. It all began with Armand Diangienda, a commercial pilot who lost his job in 1992 when his airline folded. He had a dream to conduct an orchestra. He just didn't have the elements: no instruments, teachers or musicians.
Diangienda taught himself music and several instruments and, after recruiting a few members of his church, he had the beginnings of the orchestra of his dreams. It grew over the years, but its story remained in Congo until a German documentary in 2010 led to donations of instruments and the direction of some professionals.
Opera vocalist Sabine Kallhammer came from Germany to tutor the orchestra's choir. Thanks to her and others, the orchestra's repertoire has greatly improved and with it, its members' capacity to escape their surroundings through the joy of music. "Their faces change when they do their music," says Kallhammer.