The South Asian Symphony Orchestra (SASO) will be performing a concert titled “Peace Notes” to “provide the audience with an opportunity to listen to some inspirational music that makes them understand how music can be an instrument of peace,” says Nirupama Rao, former Foreign Secretary.
Ms. Rao, one of the founders of the South Asian Symphony Foundation, speaking about its origins and goals, says: “The main purpose and mission of this trust is to use music as a bridge builder between nations, with a particular focus on South Asia. Over the last four years of the trust, we have focussed our efforts on making and establishing a South Asian Symphony Orchestra. We have held two orchestra concerts in 2019 in Mumbai and Bengaluru. Now that some of the threat from the pandemic has receded, we are performing in Chennai.”
She says a Chennai audience brings a lot to the table: “Chennai is a city with a tradition of great music appreciation. The people of this city are known for their knowledge and love of good music. The reputation of Chennai as a music-loving city has spread far and wide so we are particularly honoured to perform here.”
To show this appreciation, the orchestra will not just be playing Western classical music. Ms. Rao says: “This concert will begin its invocation in a Carnatic style [through the song] ‘Maithreem Bhajata’.” The song had been sung by Bharat Ratna recipient, M. S. Subbulakshmi and Radha Viswanathan, at the United Nations, on October 23, 1966 on the occasion of the U.N. day. She says she believes this “song is dedicated to friendship between nations” which is in line with their foundation’s goal.
Alvin Arumugam, music director of SASO and the Nimrod Orchestra, is the conductor of Saturday’s festivities and is excited to share this experience with Chennai. He mentions a few pieces that he would count in the not-to-miss list: “Dvořák - Symphony no 8, he’s a wonderfully talented Czech composer. His music is based on a lot of folk tunes that are indegneous to the people around the Czech region but his melodies are really universal. You can hear influences from modern day composers like A.R Rahman, for example.”
Ensuring that the theme remains one of global interconnection, another key piece is based on Indian ragas: “We’re going to do a violin concerto that’s barely been performed. It’s, maybe, been performed three times in total. It’s called Swara Yantra. It’s very mesmerising, it’s like a conversation between a violin and a tabla,” Mr. Arumugam says.
The concert is at Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall on July 30 at 7.30 p.m. For details, visit https://www.symphonyofsouthasia.org/