For so many dedicated musicians and musical groups, all with distinct identities of their own, to come together and perform in a single forum -- involving strenuous rehearsals, great co-ordination and a true spirit of give-and-take -- is surely a tremendous achievement!
Talking about a recent performance of the Handel Manuel Chorus conducted by Sharada Schaffter, I had mentioned that the event was sponsored by Classic Hymns, a music trust in Chennai which has produced a couple of remarkable albums which feature massive choral groups singing sacred Christian songs (‘Enchanting ensemble,’ Friday Review, July 2).
The two albums titled, 'Ancient of Days' and 'Lead Kindly Light', which are available either as audio CDs or video discs, present integrated choirs consisting of 150 and 300 singers respectively, drawn from 10/16 choirs, which are active in various churches in Chennai, and a few other musical groups in the city.
Taking both the albums together, one finds that 20 tracks (out of 33) feature the collective choirs, which are conducted in turn by different persons, all leaders of their own respective groups. They are Ebi Abraham, James Davids (Tony), Prabhu Dorairaj, Samuel Grubb, Augustine Paul, Emmanuel Ponraj, Damayanthi Santwan, Sharada Schaffter, and Arul Siromoney.
Other conductors leading smaller sets of musicians (such as Gospel Quintet, Octet Cantabile, Mount Ensemble, Canticles, etc.) are Ebenezer Arunkumar, Joshua Chelliah, Kavitha Jeyakaran, Jayanthi Prabhakar, Michael Raj, Edwin Roy, Chadwick Samuel, James Stanley and Kalyan Subramanyam (Jr). Fine accompaniment is provided by Leslie David and Arul Siromoney (pipe organ), and Jayanthi Prabhakar and Edwin Roy (piano).
For so many dedicated musicians and musical groups, all with distinct identities of their own, to come together and perform in a single forum -- involving strenuous rehearsals, great co-ordination and a true spirit of give-and-take -- is surely a tremendous achievement! A large share of the credit for creating such a fine esprit de corps must go to the enterprising businessman Binu Joshua Thomas who runs Classic Hymns and to the Rev. Peter Francis and Dr. Arul Siromoney, pastor and choirmaster respectively of St. Andrews Church, which was the main location for the production.
A significant thing about choral music is that if there’s a core group which performs extremely well, the music of the entire group sounds extremely good even if there are some flaws and imperfections in individual efforts, because the latter tend to get covered up adequately. This is true of all congregational singing or recitations of sacred songs or verses -- not only in the Christian context featuring hymns, but elsewhere too ( as when rendering ‘Tiruppugazh’ or reciting ‘Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram’).
In the context under review, all the performers are well accomplished and earnest. The overall impression is that massive choral groups have a majestic sound and smaller ensembles provide lively or gentle relief.
The twin albums effectively consolidate the many steady streams of spiritual music flowing in Chennai’s Christian circles.