Whilst on tour in South America in 2012 Leonard gave an impromptu concert with musicians in Bolivia and was so struck by their energy, passion, ambition and burning commitment that he determined to help support their desire to create an orchestra. The following year he co-founded the Orquesta Filarmonica de Bolivia, and by 2014 the orchestra had grown to 90 musicians including Bolivian emigrants who had returned home from Europe and the USA.
17th century Jesuits had recognized the innate musical talent of these Chiquitano people and instilled a love of Baroque music among the locals composing music especially for them and thereby creating one of the oldest classical traditions in South America. Restoration of the missionary churches in the 1980s (UNESCO) led to a cultural revival and renewed interest in “Jungle Baroque”. With the Orquesta Academica de Bolivia, the training orchestra based in Cochabamba, Leonard took part in the Festival Misiones de Chiquitos performing in missionary churches.
As Leonard says: “For me that is the greatest joy to witness, the commitment and investment these young musicians make in the project here, sometimes having to walk long distances with their instruments after a 12-hour bus ride due to the frequent strikes and blockades. They remind us what a privilege it is to play music”.
A documentary film by Otto Schweitzer will be released shortly.