Mumbai: Sing along, Mumbaikars, to bring in the Christmas festival
Ring in the festive season with performances by choirs from across the city and beyond, India's only orchestra and an Oxford choir
It's that time of the year when the city comes alive with choral singing and Christmas cheer. This time around, the two-day Festival of Festive Music by the Stop-Gaps Cultural Academy kicks off performances this weekend, and will have the choir from AR Rahman’s KM Music Conservatory make its debut and the big finale celebrate 200 years of the carol Silent Night.
Since its inception in 1984, when it was a competition and meant to raise funds, the annual festival has come a long way and hosted choirs from Chennai, Pune, Bengaluru and Dimapur. Alfred D’Souza, 66, chairman and music director of the music academy, says, “Many choirs today have compositions in vernacular languages and their own arrangements, besides focusing on costume and dance. We’re reaching international standards!” But, Joshua Chelliah, conductor of all-male choral group called The Harmonics from Chennai, adds, “Choral music as a career in India is still challenging. One can’t earn much. Some of us have even dabbled in choral music for Tamil film music.”
Choir of Somerville College, Oxford
But for the students who are a part of the travelling choir from Somerville College in Oxford, and who will be performing at the NCPA on December 13, choir life becomes something crucial as they go on to remain friends for life — something we have seen in our own music circuits as well. “There is something special about the community aspect of choirs. It brings people together across different streams and colleges in a way that you can’t replicate,” says William Dawes, its conductor.
The Oxford choir is also known for its secular approach to music. “The chapel where we sing every week is non-denominational and unconsecrated. Rather than celebrating Christian services like choral evensong, we take part in a service of sung Choral Contemplation where music is paired with readings of poetry and reflection, along with an address by a speaker — like a Buddhist priest or a humanist philosopher — on a moral, philosophical or ethical issue,” says Dawes. “Initially, choirs were only associated with the church, but that’s no longer true. You can sing any song in a four-part harmony and most of these groups are a capella,” D’Souza agrees.
Mumbai-based SOI Chamber Orchestra will also add to the festive spirit with their show Moonlight featuring conductor Robert Ames and violinist Galya Bisengalieva, who’ve been coming to the city for five years. “Western classical is getting a foothold in India. There are also films that are using orchestral music — a sure sign of growth. SOI orchestra is doing more shows now, thanks to the rise in the number of music schools in India,” says Robert. They will be performing pieces like Borodin’s Nocturne from String Quartet No 2 and Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.
On December 8, 9 (choral music concert), 11 (SOI Chamber Orchestra) and 13 (Choir of Somerville College); 7 pm onwards
Cost Rs 500, Rs 400 and Rs 300 onwards respectively
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