I traveled to Nairobi to meet with Dick and Julia Moss today. I don’t think I’ve had such a relaxed time in Kenya with anyone else. They are musicians to the core, although they don’t claim to be professional grade. Julia was born in Kenya, and only lived outside of the country for her college schooling. Dick moved from Great Britain to Kenya in the 50s and has been there ever since. They met and got married in Kenya.
Dick conducts the Nairobi Orchestra. (I think he referred to it as the Quaver Orchestra.) This orchestra comprises of Kenyans and expats who play classical instruments. Usually there aren’t enough people to make a full orchestra, so over time, Dick and Julia have learned to play trombone, bassoon, oboe, viola, cello… you name it… just to fill in the orchestra parts. Julia and Dick both have retired from teaching at the Hillcrest school in Nairobi (which had a former headmaster that was apparently destined to be the next Kenyatta, the first elected and most successful leader of Kenya). They now teach private lessons from their home.
The Nairobi Orchestra has had a long history, which Dick has chronicled in a book that he has written, Quavers near the Equator. I hope he will someday make a copy or two available to me. In this book, Dick talks a lot about the history of classical music in Nairobi, as well as prominent people and places in that journey. He has been involved with the orchestra for 50 years, so he is definitely the one to write the book!
They seem to know every musician in Kenya, and they are lovely people. They gave me some insight in whom to ask (and not ask) for help with the program. It was a real treat to spend time with them. They were kind enough to be my hosts for 3 or 4 hours, while we drank tea, talked, and played chamber music together.
Being in their house was like a walk through Nairobi’s musical history, and also just a walk back in time. On their beautiful 5-acre lot in the beautiful Karen district of Nairobi (named after Karen Blixen, who wrote Out of Africa), they not only have their home, which they have extended and renovated, but also a shed with a music library; a shipping container with another library and also instruments and items from Nairobi’s musical past; a garage with a beautiful teaching studio above it; and a small home that they rent out.
Unfortunately, Julia didn’t make it into any of the pictures. Maybe next time! We are hoping to get together with some of the younger expats in Kenya to play some chamber music. I hope that really happens!
|Dick and Julia Moss|