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Updated: November 30, 2012 17:23 IST

An Indian symphony

NEHA MUJUMDAR
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A consolidation Of Western classical music talent is Ashley’s goal
A consolidation Of Western classical music talent is Ashley’s goal

A new symphony orchestra being launched tomorrow seeks to be completely Indian in its composition

Musicians from across the country come together to make music. That doesn’t sound like anything radically new for Hindustani or Carnatic classical music, does it? It’s fairly common, after all, when you have vocalists and accompanists from different nooks of the country. But this weekend, Bangaloreans will have the chance to see and hear a full-fledged symphony orchestra come together: the Indian National Symphony Orchestra will be launched with a concert tomorrow.

The conductor of the orchestra, Ashley Williams, says that in part at least he is influenced by his father's wish to see a national symphony orchestra. His father, the late William Joseph, was a renowned organist at the St. Andrew's Church in the city. He would listen to Long-Playing records (LPs) of symphonies and score them out by ear. “That's the kind of gift I don't have,” said Ashley.

He was also motivated by the desire to see an all-Indian orchestra. The Symphony Orchestra of India, launched by Mumbai's National Centre for the Performing Arts, contains very few Indians, he noted: Ashley instead went looking in Mumbai and Chennai, for the musicians who played in the industry. “Indian musicians are brilliant, but each go their own way,” he said, noting that a sort of consolidation of Western classical music talent was his goal. Apart from Sunday’s concert, a few other dates have been lined up already, including possible international venues. The group has received financial support from Cecil Dewars, he said.

The show itself is likely to be a marvel of logistics — musicians from across the country have been sent the scores ahead of time, and have assembled two days before the concert to play together for the first time. They will be playing under the baton of Ashley Williams, who also doubles as director of the William Joseph International Academy for Performing Arts, a music academy in the city.

At the event, which will be held at the Leela Palace, the orchestra will play selections from Mendelssohn and the British composer Edward Elgar, as well as lighter selections from Fiddler On The Roof and The Phantom Of The Opera. There will also be soloists from Thailand.

About the evening's “strictly formal, black-tie-only” dress code, Ashley says he decided to impose it to bring the appropriate sense of formality to the evening – “you don't go to a five-star hotel barefoot,” he offered, as analogy.

Isn't the imposed formality the last thing Western classical music needs, today? In reply, Ashley recalls playing at a playground in Sweden, where, in keeping with the informality of the audience, even musicians began to appear in casual garb. He hopes to hold similar open concerts in India, too.

Contact the William Joseph International Academy of Performing Arts on 9844119956 for invites to Sunday's concert, which begins by 6.45 p.m. at the Leela Palace, Old Airport Road.

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