The MMA choir's concert, a fund-raiser for palliative care services, celebrated the spirit of living

A clap of thunder. A flash of lightning. An empowering darkness and astral chaos. Dance of death or song of life?

The Madras Musical Association choir's rendition of Haydn's amazing oratorio ‘Creation' held the promise of life at a concert that was a fundraiser for the palliative care services of the Hindustan Bible Institute. ‘Hand in Hand' featured music from the Baroque to the contemporary period, with MMA conductor Augustine Paul drawing a fine balance between the sacred music of the Masters and the devotional temperance and ecstatic commemoration of the Mass.

Before the choir launched into century-old choral scores, they sang as their opening piece the theme song from the Seoul Olympics, ‘Hand in Hand', to the strum of Augustine's guitar and the chords of Edwin Roy's piano.

Then, for the next hour at the Museum Theatre, the choir drummed out classics from the sacred music canon. They began with Bach's ‘Chorale', decided to rest that Handel staple ‘Messiah', and instead chose to perform from his ‘Israel in Egypt'. Ebenezer Arunkumar's elastic tenor led the way through the pathos of ‘And Their Cry', ‘But As For His People' and the grateful ‘Sing Ye To The Lord'.

Diya Paul's telling rendition of the story of creation was strengthened by John Bennet's bass and Ebenezer's tenor. Haydn's oratorio based on the book of Genesis has none of Bach's tranquility, Mozart's lightness or Beethoven's splendour, yet it has an extraordinary, elusive quality that brings alive the story of the beginning; the three soloists backed by the choir told it well.

Edwin's pianism has been one of the choir's forte, and in Mendelssohn's ‘Elijah', he excelled playing his chords and arpeggios like a fresh rush of rain in the bold harmonies of ‘Thanks Be To God'.

‘Lord Of The Dance' arranged by David Willcocks followed with only the voices rendering the richness and musicality of piece, ending in the brilliant ‘I am the life, That'll never, never die.' John Rutter's ‘The Lord Bless You' came next.

The second part of the concert drew inspiration from the Mass, the Christian rite of service. Beginning with Puccini's wonderfully theatrical ‘Messa di Gloria', the ‘Kyrie' was solemn yet had a sunny, pastoral disposition largely due to the flautist, Navin Iyer.

The sprightly ‘Gloria', which exuded fanfare and pageantry, from Mozart's ‘Coronation Mass' was led by a double quartet of singers — Jayanthi Prabhakar, Shireen Lazarus, Ebenezer, Roshin Abraham, Bernard Balachander, Kalyani, Patricia Mohanraj and Prabhu Sam.

The ‘Credo' (Turner's ‘Mass of St. Mary of Magdalene') followed, sung by Sharon and Shilvi. From Schubert's ‘Mass in G', Sangita Santosham, Ebenezer and Kingslin sang the ‘Sanctus' and ‘Benedictus'. The mass is a classical standard for choirs and has the beauty of a Viennese waltz. The three voices melded to proclaim Schubert's soulful mastery.

The ‘Agnus Dei' (‘Messe in G Minor', Carl Maria von Weber) by Harshita Krishnan, Kingslin and Nadisha Thomas was finely graded, but not at the expense of a smooth flow with Nina Simon also joining Navin on the flute. The choir sang three more pieces — ‘The Lord's Prayer' (Charles Garner), ‘Heal The World'(Michael Jackson) in a medley of voices that included Binil Chelliah and ‘Thank You for The Music' (ABBA) led with much gusto by Megha.

The concert held the ear of the audience because of the repertoire, the artistry of its conductor and the dramatic backing of the pianist and the flautist. Both Navin's and Edwin's craft was gutsy, compelling and vibrant. The piano's percussive edge was sustained by the flute's swirling notes and incisive melody.

It also held its heart because of Jayanthi's fine oration on music as the message, the medium and the spirit behind ‘I am the life, That'll never, never die.'

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