Gospel music rang out as the Vienna University Choir, the Indian National Youth Orchestra and the Coimbatore Chamber Chorale performed to a packed audience

The walls of CSI Christ Church, Kovaipudur, echoed with the compositions of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert and Anton Bruckner, at the Grand Concert of Sacred Music presented by The Vienna University Choir and India National Youth Orchestra in collaboration with Coimbatore Chamber Chorale and Trivandrum Choristers Association.

During the first session of the concert, conductor Vijay Upadhyaya took centre stage, closed his eyes and raised his hands slowly, and the choir responded with the first song of the evening, Bogoroditse Devo by Sergei Rachmaninoff. It was soon followed by Gabriel Rheinberger’s Abendlied.

The Masters

Note sheets were flipped and the choir sang Schubert’s The Lord is my Shepherd. The sopranos and basses then filled the hall with Denn Er Hat Seinen Engeln by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy.

Locus Iste and Ave Maria followed. The choir launched into Vienna, City of My Dreams by Rudolf Sieczynski. The musicians, swayed, held hands and gestured animatedly, as they sang in praise of their city.

The Indian National Youth Orchestra, The Coimbatore Chamber Chorale and Trivandrum Choristers Association joined The Vienna University Choir. Vijay, who is also the founder of the India National Youth Orchestra, said he felt there was a dearth of teachers for Western instrumental music in India.

A need for more

“In a country such as ours with such a huge population, there are not enough teachers for wind instruments such as the Oboe or the horn. This prompted me to start an orchestra group in India, two years ago. Now, it has more than 150 musicians,” he said, as he introduced them.

The second part of the evening started with strains of violins, cellos and piano as the choir sang Ave Verum by Mozart. There was applause, as the singers rendered the last lines of Surely He Hath Borne Our Grief from The Messiah by George Frideric Handel.

The audience hummed along and some rose from their seats as the choir launched into Handel’s Hallelujah. Feet tapped and heads moved, as the singers gave a spirited rendition of Joshua fit the battle of Jericho by Moses Hogan. The Tamil song, Potruven Thevanaiyae, by Theodore David, sung by all the three choir groups, and conducted by Faith Ragland, the director of Coimbatore Chamber Chorale, received warm applause. The evening concluded, as the audience and the choir sang the closing hymn, All hail the power of Jesus’s name.

Gospel music enthusiasts including musicians from Hyderabad, Trichy, Ooty, Trivandrum and Salem were present at the concert. The music spilled out of the church as the choir group stepped out into the churchyard to sing for those who did not get seats inside.

Vijay, who conducts over 50 concerts every year all over the world with The Vienna University Choir, said that choir music should be seen more as an art than religious music, and be imparted to the new generation. “They should be told the difference between classical and pop music. Art demands persistence and dedication. There is no fast-forward to learning it.”