Lilting, lofty music

Kaavya Pradeep Kumar
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The illustrious MBS Youth Choir is celebrating 25 years of ‘singing together.’

Members of the MBS Choir at a rehearsal in Thiruvananthapuram.Photo: S. Gopakumar
Members of the MBS Choir at a rehearsal in Thiruvananthapuram.Photo: S. Gopakumar

Arunima Abraham loves to sing. It is a passion that announced itself early for the eight-year-old. She even found herself a pair of golden earrings shaped like musical notes and she consciously wore it on that Sunday afternoon, one of the final days of practice ahead of the big day.

She is one of the youngest members of the illustrious MBS Youth Choir and among the three from her family who lend their voices to the choral songs that the group is renowned for.

On the occasion of its silver jubilee, the choir is preparing to hold a concert on October 2, celebrating 25 years of “singing together.”

Every Saturday, the wooded precincts of the Lenin Balavadi turn into a haven for music lovers from all walks of life. College students, government servants, scholars, police officers and businessmen come together to sing melodies on ideals that are now dismissed as naive in a more cynical world.

World peace, communal harmony, national integration, environment conservation are strains that consistently flow through their harmonies, with the choir’s coordinators steadfastly holding onto the legacy of the visionary composer M.B. Sreenivasan.

One of the founding members of the choir, John Mathai, speaks of the threats posed by the visual media, but the MBS Youth Choir has prevailed, without compromising on traditions.

“There are so many options for aspiring singers even to win a momentary grasp of fame. But here, it is more continual. Every Saturday, during the afternoons, at least 30 members from the core registry of 50 assemble for practice,” he says.

Their venue has never changed as the Lenin Balavadi’s sheltered ambience matches perfectly with the vision of the group. For children like Arunima who form part of the children’s choir, the premises have turned into a playground as well with plenty of trees to clamber on and friends to be with.

The halls here have echoed the sounds of music sung in an astounding range of languages.

In fact, Mr. Mathai says, he would be surprised to find any other choir that boasts its range. “Over 200 songs in Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, Bengali and even the tribal Badaga dialect are memorised by the members. It is very difficult, of course, but understanding them and insistence on pronouncing the words in the right accent affirm ideals of national integration that we uphold,” Mr. Mathai says.

G. Radhakrishnan, secretary of the group, recalls the efforts made by M.B. Sreenivasan in creating a sense of togetherness through singing. Their signature style, woven by MBS, revolves around blending western choral principles with Carnatic music to soulful effect. The choir very minimally uses instruments, in a bid to celebrate the range of the human voice. For Wednesday’s programme scheduled to be held at the Karthika Thirunal Theatre here, the children’s choir will perform three songs and the youth choir will sing six compositions, in addition to 12 film songs.

The choir’s coordinator, Ashok Sharma, whose father, S. Sharma, played a pivotal role in the choir’s formation and upbringing, hoped to be involved in preparing school children in the State in singing patriotic choral songs again, as they used to during the 1990s. Through conductors like Mathew Itty and Sreekumar, the choir group sees a more vibrant future ahead.




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