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The Music of Africa

Uniting hearts through the arts

 

Crescendo has been working in Rwanda for the past four years supporting local musicians and helping needy people in various ways. These efforts have been led by one married couple from Germany, who are investing their exceptional musical talents in an unlikely place.

Pianist Martin Helmchen had already won international fame by winning multiple prizes in his early twenties! Crescendo leader, Beat Rink, remembers meeting him when he was about 16 years old, “I was hosting a lecture by Franz Mohr (ed. renowned piano technician to stars like Vladimir Horowitz) at the Steinway House in Berlin. The focus of the evening was the famous grand piano used by Vladimir Horowitz that Mohr had, in effect, created especially for him. During his talk, Franz Mohr shared his experiences as a master piano technician for the world’s best pianists.

Afterward, as usual, we sold copies of Franz’s book, which contains even more stories as well as his personal faith story. At the end of the evening, a friendly young family approached us and introduced themselves as Christians. Martin was introduced to us as a promising young musician. He played the Horowitz Steinway piano and impressed us all!”

Now, some fifteen years later, Martin plays with the best orchestras in the world. Three years ago he married Marie-Elisabeth Hecker, an accomplished cellist, who won the Rostropovich prize at the age of 17, which catapulted her onto the worldwide music scene. 

This highly talented couple is able to share the love of God with others in a remarkable way through their music, and they are amazing ambassadors of faith to the world of arts and culture. 

A few years ago Marie phoned Airi Rink, co-director of Crescendo, and shared her desire to offer her music to a different audience than the highly sophisticated listeners who typically attend her concerts. She was looking for a new opportunity to do more with her talents – to use her gifts to help people in need. She wondered whether Crescendo could offer her opportunities to play for or even teach people who would otherwise have no contact to her or her music.

Around the same time, Crescendo leaders met the leaders of the Agape partner ministry in Rwanda (Campus Crusade for Christ Rwanda) and decided to launch a Crescendo initiative in Africa called “Music Road Rwanda”.

Music Road Rwanda was born out of the conviction that music can bring people hope and peace, and has an immense influence on every culture and society. As professional musicians who are often on the road, we feel very strongly that music can provide so much more than entertainment.

Martin Helmchen with a student

Martin Helmchen with a student

Many projects have proven that musical training and the experience of coming together to make music can serve people, and especially children, as a release from a life of poverty and crime.  Rwanda is one of the most densely populated and one of the poorest countries in Africa. In this country, violently torn apart by the genocide of 1994, where so many are still suffering the effects of that trauma, the power of music to change lives can be seen in project activities.

Today, Crescendo supports the only music school in the country (Kigali Music School), coordinates events for local orphans and widows and does outreach concerts in hospitals, churches and for street children. One of the most moving events so far was a special day for widows, which included a talk on healing inner wounds given by Airi Rink. As part of the event, each woman had the opportunity to receive a special musical blessing and personal prayer.

Last February, as part of a Gospel Choir project that brought together enthusiastic young singers and choir directors from Kigali, Beat and Airi Rink led a series of devotions based on the Lord’s Prayer before each rehearsal. Martin Helmchen was on hand to share his thoughts on the phrase “Your will be done”, and he shared a powerful personal story of faith for every professional musician.

“As a musician, it’s important to not become addicted to your own success, but remain dependent only on God. If it is God’s will that I have an accident tomorrow and can never play the piano again and have to give up my career, I don’t think my world would fall apart. If something like that were to happen, I would still know that God has something better in store for me.”

What a testimony of faith any humility!

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