BOSTON — Armand Diangienda, the acclaimed founder and conductor of the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, received the inaugural Charles Ansbacher “Music for All” Award on July 9th during an evening concert at the historic Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade in front of hundreds of attendees.
The award is named in honor of Charles Ansbacher, founder and conductor of the Boston Landmarks Orchestra until his death in 2010. Ansbacher, who guest conducted with leading symphony orchestras all over the world, believed deeply in the power and importance of music and he launched the free concert series in 2000. Ansbacher was also a founding investor in GlobalPost along with his wife, former US Ambassador to Austria Swanee Hunt. Ambassador Hunt continues to spearhead the Free for All Concert Fund in honor of her late husband.
In 1992, Diangienda created the first all-black symphony orchestra in the world and the only symphony orchestra in Central Africa. He is the grandson of Simon Kimbangu, founder of Kimbanguism, the third religion of Congo. His compositions include the symphony “Breath of Truth” and “Symphony in A Minor” both of which retain influences of African culture. Entirely self-taught, he was playing the piano at age five and today his knowledge encompasses almost all of the instruments of classical and modern music.
The Charles Ansbacher “Music for All” Award was conceived by Tuan Nguyen, a trustee of the Free for All Concert Fund, and the founder of VietNamNet, the largest internet news provider in Vietnam. The award represents the living legacy of their friendship. Ansbacher was the first American to lead the Vietnam National Symphony. The award will annually recognize an individual who has demonstrated a commitment to bringing free, high-quality, classical music to all people in a particular geographic setting.
Armand Diangienda has built his symphony orchestra from the ground up, literally transforming his home into a make-shift conservatory. Full of self-taught musicians, many of whom travel two hours by foot for rehearsals and play on home-made instruments, this orchestra’s very existence provides hope and promotes peace in a country full of poverty and war. Diangienda was the focus of a recent 60 Minutes profile.