The Landfill Harmonic

Cateura is a small village in Paraguay built on a landfill. The 10,000 residents of the poor village survive by salvaging and selling the trash that forms the base of their town.

Like people the world over, they love music. Unlike the people who live in our community, they cannot afford common orchestral instruments such as violins, violas and cellos. So they build their own from scraps recovered from the landfill.

Instruments made out of trash.

A cello is fashioned from an empty oil drum. The tuning pegs are made from an abandoned tool used to tenderize beef. A violin costs more than a house in that South American town, so one is fashioned from scraps of wood and rusty forks.

Luis Szaran organized an orchestra whose players are the village’s children and youth. It is called the “Recycled Orchestra.” They play the classics–Mozart, Bach and Handel. If you wonder whether they make beautiful music, listen for yourself:

 

A full-length documentary is being made to document this touching story.

I learned this from a blog on the website of Duke Divinity School, a blog which makes an appropriate connection of this story to the Gospel: “The Recycled Orchestra is in the business of turning brokenness into beauty, and beauty into hope. In other words, it is about as clear an enactment of the Gospel as one could ask for.”

The epistle lesson for the fourth Sunday in Lent sums up the possibilities of treasure created from trash: “If anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). From stuff that is tossed aside comes the music of redemption.

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