Akshaya, an amateur choral group, bags the bronze at the World Choir Games held in Cincinnati.
Sudha Raja is on a high. Naturally. Akshayam, the 15-member choir group led and conducted by her, has won the bronze medal in the Folklore Category, at the recently concluded World Choir Games held in Cincinnati, U.S. An incredible achievement indeed, considering the fact that the Indian group had to compete with 61 groups from across the globe!
The seventh edition of the World Choir Games, organised by Germany-based Inter Kultur, saw over 400 choral groups (and nearly 14,000 people) participating from all over the world. Says an excited Sudha, “It’s an experience of a lifetime. Meeting amazing talents and being part of such a prestigious event is something that we shall cherish forever.”
Akshayam was formed by Sudha eight years ago, and has been performing choral music at various platforms, including temples and sabhas. But how did they learn about the World Choir Games? Says Sudha, “It all started when a report in The Hindu mentioned that a choir from Nagaland (the Shillong Choir) had won a prize at the Games. That got us thinking and we dug up more information about the event. Then, we decided to send in our entry in the Folklore category.” Sudha got valuable help from Kannikeswaran, her friend in Cincinnati.
Four pieces were chosen – Tagore’s ‘Anandalokae’, Muthiah Bhagavatar’s varnam’s swarams in Suddha Dhanyasi, Malayalam poet P. Baskaran’s ‘Katrularunnu’ and Bharatiar’s ‘Penmai Vazhgendu.’ Akshayam had 20 minutes to present the pieces. What’s more, unlike in other categories, they were allowed to use a playback track, and had no restrictions when it came to the number of pieces they could sing. “It was tough, as we had to practise with recorded music and the timing had to be perfect.”
Recalls Sudha, “We had 10 minutes to rehearse the evening before the event. The monitors were kept in one corner, and we had no clue how we sounded. So, we requested the organisers to move the monitors to the front and give us another five minutes to rehearse once more. Initially, they were unwilling to bend the rules. However, they relented, and after all the groups had rehearsed, we took the mike again with the monitor in front of us. We felt a little better. The funny thing is after watching us do that, the other groups too wanted the monitor in front!”
What is really commendable about Akshayam’s win is that the whole trip was funded completely by the group, without any sponsorship or help from outsiders. “We did ask a few people but the response was not too encouraging. So we decided to pool in our resources and make the trip. It was an expensive, but extremely rewarding endeavour.”
Classes for choral music
Sudha Raja, who has a Doctorate in Music, was groomed by the doyen of choral music, M.B. Srinivasan. She had Carnatic training under Sulochana Pattabhiraman. Sudha conducts choral music classes, three Sundays every month, 10 a.m. to 12 noon, for adults and children (Sargam) and adults (Akshayam), in Chennai. For details, call her at 98401 32913.