A Western choral music concert by the Vienna University Choir, Trivandrum Male Voices, Trivandrum Choristers Association and the Coimbatore Chamber Chorale hit the right notes.

March 8 was one of the hottest days of the year thus far. Inside the St. Theresa of Lisieux Church in Thiruvananthapuram, though well ventilated, it was even hotter and even more humid. But that did not stop choral music lovers, who jam-packed the hall with very little standing space, from remaining there for the entire two hours of the concert presented by the Vienna University Choir, the Trivandrum Male Voices, Trivandrum Choristers Association and Coimbatore Chamber Chorale. This, by itself, speaks volumes not only about the interest in Western choral music, but also about the quality of the performance of the nearly 200 people on stage.

The Vienna University Choir conducted by Vijay Upadhyaya, their music director, lived up to expectations. The first part of the concert was just the Vienna Choir performing. Extremely well-rehearsed, balanced, crisp and tight in their enunciation, it was a treat. They sang six pieces – from the sublime, religious and serious (Rachmaninoff, Rheinberger, Mendelssohn and Bruckner), to the flippant and popular Sieczynski (‘Vienna City Of My Dreams’) and ended the section with a choral rendition of the ‘Blue Danube Waltz’ by Strauss.

What is extraordinary about this entity is that it is a university choir, comprising students with good voices and an interest in singing. That means there are no professionally trained singers who aspire for a career in opera or any vibrato touting soloists… just young people who love to sing. To train and bring them to the standard is the hallmark of a class conductor. This is why Upadhayaya stands out and has been invited to conduct choral orchestral works in Brazil, the Americas, Europe and China.

The Trivandrum Male Voices and the Trivandrum Choristers Association joined in for the next five pieces (all religious numbers) and gave an excellent account. The moment they joined in, the tone of the whole choir changed. It was an interesting resultant of two different types of timbre, accent, pronunciation and enunciation; one crisp and the other slightly husky, combining to form a totally different sound texture. The tone changed once again for the rest of the four pieces that included Mozart’s ‘Missa Brevis K140’ and the Hallelujah chorus, when the Coimbatore Chamber Chorale joined in. The pick of the evening with all the three choirs singing together with the orchestra was Mozart’s ‘Ave Verum Corpus’.

The Thiruvananthapuram-based choral groups are every bit capable of standing on their own beside any amateur choir of the standard of the University of Vienna. However, one wished that they would break out of their cloistered existence and start singing a more varied repertoire with just a little more practice.

The hastily put-together India National Youth (String) Orchestra added colour, accompanied and performed far better than expected. The youthful enthusiasm and some rigorous practice were quite evident.

If one were to nit-pick, the only criticism would be the selection of some of the pieces.