Yes, there were choirs, but it was carols that won at a recent competition

Wearing cassocks imprinted with a three-leaved clover — which symbolises St. Patrick — and crowned with halos made of plastic, the young St. Patrick's College choristers struck a picture of piety. But when the Shamrocks, as the choir is called, began to present a Christmas medley — as one of the 18 finalists of ‘Aachi Sing The Season 2009' carol competition held recently — the Madras University auditorium started rumbling with laughter.

Conductor Danny and his choristers were stretching and shimmying to their own music. The dance movements matched the singing, which seamlessly united sections from three timeless carols in five minutes flat.

When the beaming Shamrocks marched off the stage to a loud applause, Danny stopped and swivelled on his heels and literally wheedled the Vijay TV cameraman into snatching a close-up of the three-leaf symbol ‘Shamrock'.

Spirited participation

Thanks to such spirited participation, the excitement that began at 6 p.m. did not subside until the winners were announced at 10.30 p.m. When the choirs were not performing, emcees Anand and Shilpa engaged the crowd with charming banter. The event, organised by The Planners, had some dignitary walking in every 30 minutes. Music composer Harris Jayaraj trailed in at 9 p.m.

The quality of singing revealed the teams had been practising hard. Some had even gone to the trouble of composing their own carols. CSI House of Prayer came up with a lovely Tamil song (‘Vinthudar Vandachi') that conveyed the birth of Christ with a profusion of words that end with the sound ‘achi'. They capped this performance with a short commercial for Aachi Group of Companies, the sponsor. The out-of-the-box idea did not cut ice with judges Samuel Joseph, Chitty Prakash Dhairyam and Grace Karunaas.

Doubts put to rest

The top honour in the church choir category went to Emmanuel Methodist Church (EMC). With James Tony Davids as conductor and some of the best singing talents in its ranks, the EMC were the odds-on favourite. If there were any lingering doubts, their rendition of ‘When Jesus Was Born', set in the black American style, put them to rest. In a fitting tribute to Tony, the EMC choristers lifted him after collecting the winners' cheque from Harris. While giving away the runners-up cheque to New Life Assembly of God Church, Harris did not hide his happiness. “I am a member of that church,” he revealed.

St. Joseph's College of Engineering performed the challenging ‘While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night' and moved to a Tamil carol, achieving a beautiful contrast. During the medley, Santa Clauses invaded the stage, making for some drama. The college was rewarded with the second prize for the effort. Thanks to the reckless abandon and the infectious enthusiasm with which they performed, the Shamrocks were the undisputed choice for the top prize in the college category.

All-time favourites

The CSI Ewart's School and CSI Bain's School, winners and runners-up in the category for schools, showed that traditional, well-known carols (‘Walking Around The Christmas Tree', ‘Jingle Bell Rock' and ‘This Child') gain more appeal when they are on the merry lips of well-trained young singers.