First time playing a concert at the Japanese Ambassador's Residence
In the end of September, as Nana and I started planning our second trip to DRC, I started to be in contact with the Japanese Embassy once again.
They were incredibly supportive about our return and not only helped us with our business visas, they also invited us to play a concert at the Ambassador's residence! We of course said "YES!"
4 days before we flew out to Kinshasa, my contact at the embassy emailed me to ask me if we could add a few Japanese songs to the program. A Congolese journalist had written an article about this concert and it had been released in several newspapers. Along with our bios and a brief description of Music Beyond, the article somehow mentioned we would be playing Japanese music. Oh well! So along with our arrangement of works by Bach and Mendelssohn, we stretched our program a bit to include some Japanese folk songs, as well as some arrangements of Christmas music.
We arrived at the Ambassador's residence 2 hours before the concert. It was a beautiful place with a big patio and a stunning garden.
The patio had good acoustics as well, so we were happy. But.... It was HOT. As in 100 degrees with 70% humidity hot. There were ceiling fans but we had to turn them off during the concert since they distorted our sound when we performed. (Sort of the same way your voice gets distorted when you speak into a fan.)
At 6pm, after we powdered our faces as much as possible, showered ourselves in mosquito repellant, and walked on stage in warm applause.
Next, the embassy introduced us as well as our work as Music Beyond, and that’s when I noticed a man with a large camera that had a bright light mounted on it zooming in on my face.
We had been informed that a national TV station was here to film our concert, but I didn’t realize he was going to be so close up! While my bio was being read, the cameraman stuck the camera on Nana’s face, and as Nana’s bio was read, he shined a very bright light on my face.
Next, as we began playing our first piece, the cameraman stood right in front of us, making us sweat profusely with his light and block the view from our audience members. Out of the corner of my eyes, I could see an embassy staff member trying his best to gesture the camera guy to move to the side, but he stayed right in front of our music stands for the entire piece. When we finished playing, someone apparently complained that all they could see was the backside of the cameraman.
So, for the second piece, he moved right behind us, simultaneously burning our backside and shining a very powerful light towards the audience. That didn't work either though, as our guests couldn’t look up and watch us play at all because of the light.
By the third piece, the cameraman was perfectly fine, sticking to the side of the room and not blinding anybody. Despite the fact that sweat was running down our faces and our flutes were slipping off our lips the entire time, the concert went very well. (I definitely inhaled a few mosquitos!) The audience seemed to enjoy our performance, and I was especially moved when everyone started to hum and sing along very softly as we began our rendition of "Silent Night”.
After the concert, we gave a short interview, which was followed by a pleasant evening mingling with the guests over wine & delicious sushi, made from fresh fish flown in from Paris! It was great to see so many of our supporters there. Our board member came with his wife, and a spokesperson from UN whom we met last time actually read about us in the newspaper and decided to come!
I also met a lot of new people after the concert – ambassadors from many different countries (Japan, UK, Germany, Egypt), Congolese art professionals, and personnel from many different aid agencies, working for many different governments. They were all incredibly kind and friendly, and I truly had a great time.
It was another one of those moments where I felt so grateful & lucky to have all these amazing opportunities to connect with wonderful people in DR Congo.
Thank you Japanese Embassy for welcoming us and planning such a fantastic evening for us.
Thank you our dear friends in Kinshasa who always include us into their circles and introduce us to their friends & colleagues.
Thank you Kimbanguist Symphony Orchestra for guiding us to Kinshasa.
And... I thank music for making all these beautiful connections possible!