Saint Tyagaraja's songs were sequenced to form a narrative.
Group rendition of Tyagaraja kritis has a special impact with the bhakti element dominating everything else. ‘Sri Rama Darshan' presented by Sarvani Sangeetha Sabha at Raga Sudha Hall recently was no exception.
It was a rare opportunity, since Pancharatna goshti ganam is the only occasion when the saint's songs are rendered by groups.
The vocal group comprised violin vidwan V.L.V. Sudharshan, Paramakudi Ravindran, Dr. K. Madhumohan and Calcutta V.N. Shankar. Sudharshan had found a common thread to link the kritis of Sadguru, depicting Rama's birth, his childhood, Tyagaraja's yearning for the Lord's visit to his house, the composer's reaction when it happens and so on.
The programme sans raga alapana, niraval and kalpanaswara, except for an outline preceding each kriti by C.K. Patanjali (flute) and Kallidaikurichi M. Balakrishnan (violin), was a welcome change.
Both the accompanists excelled in giving the essence of the ragas in less than a minute.
Before each song, Sudharshan gave a brief intro in Tamil, a task that should have been assigned to someone else with better diction and a suitable voice. Despite four men on the vocals, the gusto was lacking and it appeared as though none used their nabhi for singing.
It was only midway through the 24-song suite that one could find cohesion.
Was it lack of rehearsals as a group? One could not help wondering as the vocalists had their heads bent to see the lyric written down. The result was muffled voices as the vocal chords get constricted in that position.
Nevertheless ‘Sasi Vadhana' (Chandrajyothi), ‘Graha Balamemi' (Revagupti), ‘Nannu Vidachi' (Ritigowla) and a few more songs did make an impact.
Veteran Thanjavur Subramaniam lent support with brilliant tekkas and arudis.
D.V. Venkatasubramaniam (ghatam) followed his pattern faithfully. It was an emotional moment when the Anjaneya kriti ‘Gitarthamu' (Suratti) was presented with the mangala harathi to the portrait of Sadguru Tyagaraja Swami to mark the end of the programme.
Sarvani Sangeetha Sabha Trust deserves praise for reviving a tradition that has gone into oblivion.