Trichur Ramachandran led the concert with vitality, diplaying his stamp of musical maturity
When the audience emerges from an auditorium after a concert, humming tunes they have heard inside, it is an indication that the concert went well. When different passages linger long after it is over, then it is a sign that the experience was deep. When both these combine with exclamations of joy long after the concert is through, it bespeaks of a rare experience of elevation. One such was Trichur Ramachandran's performance. Any critic would like to re-live the experience by writing about it.
If one were to list the songs rendered, a set of compositions commonly heard on the stage over the past half century would show up. What is significant is that each one of them was presented, wrapped in dedication and humility, and given a shine by a veteran, who has over five decades of experience in singing what truly goes for Carnatic music. Without a trace of cliché and yet true to tradition, Ramachandran captained the concert effortlessly with varnam, keertana, alapana, neraval and swaras in Abhogi (varnam), Reetigowla (Tattvamariya Taramaa), Pantuvarali (Apparaama Bhakti), Khamas (Seetapate Naa Manasunaa) and Kapinarayani (Sarasasama Dana’). Every number had the stamp of musical maturity. Short, crisp and tasteful kalpanaswaras figured in all the items barring the tukkadas and Dikshitar's solemn piece ‘Parimala Ranganaatham Bhaje’ in Hamirkalyan.
A significant feature was the skill of the leader to harness the potential talent of his teammates and stimulate their creativity. With commendable grace, V.L. Kumar handled the violin; Bhakthavatsalam's prowess with the mridangam blasted forth and A.S. Sankar’s ghatam rang, as the accompanists fell quickly in line with the ethos the singer had built from the word go.
The concert glowed with original flashes in every number. To name some, the short alapana to ‘Seetaapate’, the rendition of the song itself and the kalpanaswaras could be classified as ‘Khamas Extract’ or ‘Tyagaraja in person.’ ‘Apparaama Bhakti’ brought out the essence of the love Tyagaraja has for Rama, adorned with the quintessence of Pantuvarali. The alapana for ‘Parimala Ranganaatham’ produced the illusion of witnessing a fiery spectacle in the heavens, unfolding itself in leisurely grandeur.
Sankarabharanam came out in a pageant-like parade of the diverse madhyamas that characterise it, with emphasis on the nishada.
At times when the voice seemed to battle with the pitch in the higher passages, a massive wave of expression, steeped in staggering originality, would rush in and make the voice bounce back!
Kumar was a perfect foil to the singer, going along with him in spirit and action, without departure. While playing sancharas, he displayed virtuosity with deft fingering and easy bowing backed by abundant imagination. Bhakthavatsalam was in his element, spurred by the singer till he could hardly contain himself. From the varnam onwards, he came out with different patterns of sollus to fill the gaps among pallavi, anupallavi and charanam. The coda at the end of every item was rich, if a trifle loud, and tisra nadai immediately after a few avartanams in chatusram. In the tani avartanam, between him and Sankar the exchanges lasted only for an avartanam or two, after the first round. The kuraippau's were a treat to the rhythm sense of the hearer. Soon the percussionists went into a frenzy and played like ones possessed.
A sensitive listener could not help wishing that the mridangam could have been much more subdued while accompanying the artist, for the singer is after all the focus, and no amount of enthusiasm on the part of the percussionist can excuse the suppression of the voice. Many of the fine, chiselled brigas of Ramachandran, for which he is reputed, were lost in the thundering drum, which while faithfully anticipating every one of them expertly, still managed to drown the human voice, not to mention the violin!