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Friday Review » Music

Updated: March 30, 2010 16:52 IST

Soaring notes

DIVYA KUMAR
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Tara Venkatesan Photo: R. Ravindran.
THE HINDU
Tara Venkatesan Photo: R. Ravindran.

Multi-faceted soprano Tara Venkatesan strikes a balance between the enthusiasm of a teen and the maturity that comes from her grounding in music

She's sung for Disney and before the Dalai Lama; she's sung with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra and for the delegates of the European Union; she just got back from a performance in Turkey and will be heading to Singapore next; she's training for Broadway on the one hand and gymnastics on the other. Oh, and she's seriously considering ‘the neuroscience of music' as her subject of study in college.

Meet 15-year-old Tara Venkatesan, multi-faceted young soprano and grand-daughter of former president of India, R. Venkataraman, who is back in Chennai for a special performance.

She was last in the city over two years ago as a precocious 12-year-old, singing her heart out for the SOS Children's Villages as part of the charitable platform she had just launched for underprivileged children, “Music 4 Kids By Kids”. She'd also said — torn between her love for both music and science — that her ambition was to be “a singing palaeontologist in space.”

“I've kinda moved on a bit since then,” says the petite teenager, laughing. “But it's still my back-up plan!”

She might be considering giving up Tyrannosaurus Rex for Oliver Sacks (she's working her way through the neuroscientist's book Musicophilia at the moment), but her boundless enthusiasm for life — and particularly for Western classical music — remains unchanged.

“My platform ‘Music 4 Kids By Kids' is not just for underprivileged children, but for children performing in the classical arts too — I've started a club in my school that meets every week, and I want to start a web portal where people can share their love of classical music,” says the ninth grader from the American International School in Delhi, earnestly. “Some kids think classical music is geeky stuff, but I want to spread the message that it's cool!”

If anyone can do that, it's this lively young soprano, who specialises in Western Classical music but loves Broadway as well (she's training with Bob Marks in New York for that); who is equally ecstatic about her experience of singing with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra (It was amazing, the music just flowed out!”), and of singing on the Hindi soundtrack of the Disney film “Bolt” alongside Mohit Chauhan (“the whole time, I was thinking, ‘this is Disney! Someone pinch me!'”); who has trained with the likes of Situ Singh Buehler, Gerald Wirth (artistic director of the Vienna Boys Choir) and Pandit Ravi Shankar, but is still glowing with pleasure over the cartwheels she managed on stage (courtesy gymnastics class) during a recent concert.

The only trouble? “I love doing so many things that sometimes it's hard to prioritise and time-manage,” she says with a giggle.

But she is absolutely clear on one thing — that Western classical music is, and will always be, her first love. And, she returns to those roots with her Chennai concert at St. George's Cathedral on March 31, singing a suitably sombre selection for Lent (everything from Ninth Century Gregorian chants to pieces by Bach and Handel), accompanied by Hungarian pianist Gabriella Boda-Rechner, and French-trained flautist Simone Golstein.

“Chennai is very special to me, because it's where I started my platform,” says Tara, who has raised funds for NGOs such as Khushi, and CanSupport since. “Plus, the Cathedral has a programme that supports the education of 75 children, and that's very relevant to ‘Music 4 Kids by Kids.'”

Her biggest dream, she says, would be to sing with the London Symphony Orchestra, and perform music written for her at La Scala in Milan. And, of course, get that degree in the neuroscience of music. Not too much of an ask for someone who dreamt of being a singing palaeontologist in space.

Tonight's Concert

“An Evening of Sacred Arias”, featuring soprano Tara L. Venkatesan, Hungarian pianist Gabriella Boda-Rechner, and French-trained flautist Simone Golstein, will showcase Western classical pieces reflective of the spirit of introspection and repentance during Lent.

Entry is free.

Time: 6:30 p.m.

Location: St. George's Cathedral

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