As Women’s Christian College turns 100, a 100-voice choir of alumni and students will commemorate the occasion

CHENNAI: Who doesn’t love birthday celebrations? While it’s usually for just a day or two, when Women’s Christian College turns 100, they will pull out all the stops for some year-long fun through the hundredth year. On July 7, the celebrations begin and it’s pure drama with the Shades of Times Square and New Year Night jamboree. A thanksgiving service at midnight will set the tone for the milestone year, says Principal Ridling Waller.

Music is big with the college celebrations. The run up to the centenary began three years ago with a big concert for the public — The Festival of Choirs — held in early December to usher in carol season. Mooted by Dr. Ranjini Christopher, professor of French and Chaplin, the Fest ran all three years. Seeing how it fired popular imagination, she suggested starting a 100-voice chorale for the centenary. Dr Waller agreed and so began the choir early this year.

“In February, when we first met, we were in single digits,” says choir director, Jayanthi Prabhakar, who also conducts the popular children's choir Crotchets & Quavers. Soon the ranks swelled and today it stands at over 100.

How has it been to train a random set of alumni comprising choir conductors, teachers, septuagenarians, an assortment of Government officials and students? “In the beginning I was slightly diffident, but the enthusiasm and commitment of the choristers helped a great deal. Even if I asked the choristers to come for rehearsal at eight in the morning, they would be willing. For the first time, we are doing three-part harmony for the college anthem, which incidentally is to the tune of ‘Be still my soul’.

At one of their rehearsals,  I was struck by the soaring sopranos singing descant in the lovely hymn ‘Praise to The Lord, the Almighty’. There are at least three mother-daughter duos in the line up including 73-year-old Georgina Abeyshekara and Hannah Lavanya. It was incredible to see the cheerful engagement of Dr. Adella Paul, a senior choir director herself, notwithstanding a broken right hand in a sling.  “When I was looking for the descant Adella akka brought in three different versions,” says Jayanthi.

The line of alumni accompanists includes Damayanthi Santwan, who graduated in 1948, Sharmila Moses, vice president, YWCA, Sruti Lal, professor of Psychology and fresher Sanjula Satya on the cajun. A Physics professor says, “It is a lovely feeling, the synergy of singing with 100 voices.” Dr. Lilian Jasper of the English department says, “I look forward to the rehearsals. Besides the melodious pieces of music, it is a time for friendship and fun as staff and students from various age groups gather together to celebrate a momentous event.” Baritone par excellence, Rev. Dr. Sam Kamaleson, an octogenarian, has delayed his return to the U.S. by several days so that he can accommodate his speaking assignment on the historic night at the college where his late wife studied.

The 100-voice choir will follow through his benediction with ‘Go now in peace’. The college choir under Tony Davids will render ‘He is the Rock of Ages’ and ‘He's got everything under control’. Here's to music and a perfect centum!