It was music so divine

ANNIVERSARY CONCERT The Lutheran Men's Voice choir performing at the Apostolic Tabernacle, Vepery  

Music is of three kinds — music of the feet referring to dance; music of the mind, meaning the classical genre; and music of the heart, referring to devotional music, and hence, the last is several notches above the first two. Bishop Rev. Dr. G. Johnson.

There is a host of male voice groups and choirs that has flourished in Chennai for some time now, a couple of them were established more than 40 years ago. What is special about male voices, did you ask? The resonant quality combined with rich overtones makes male voices special. Strength and sonority make a men's chorus perfect for unaccompanied singing.

The Lutheran Men's Voice, an 18-member ensemble, whose music displays a pronounced German, especially Bavarian influence, completed 30 years recently and this without a break of even one season throughout this period. The group which started with eight singers has five of them continuing from day one. Besides the director, Prabhu Dorairaj, the others singing from the group's inception are Vijayakumar, Prabhakar, Selvaraj and Immanuel Premkumar.

It was a happy occasion at the Apostolic Tabernacle in Vepery recently when the Lutheran's Men's Voice celebrated its anniversary with a concert. The Sastriar song "Amen Alleluia" sung a capella to the original tune was the highlight as also the finale when the first tenor Ebenezer Arunkumar and the director blended in a fine duet in "The Lord is My Strength." The German Consul, Erwin Wendland, released a souvenir on the occasion.

It was at the Christmas programme got up by the ICA in 1975 that the LMV made its debut appearance. Dorairaj recalls it was the Three Chords singer, the late Ruben, who suggested that he start a group, himself joining the LMV as a co-founder member. Keyboard expert Rajeevan David has been associated with the group from the early days and accompanies them during concerts. A bank official, Dorairaj was transferred to Tiruchi three years ago. Despite this, the group has not missed out on a single programme as Dorairaj travels every weekend to the city for rehearsals.

The conductor of the John Millns Singers, Jabez Janagaraj, under whom he sang earlier, is his inspiration. Edwin and the late Rajasingham Satya of Grace Lodge Orchestra are the other two stalwarts who inspired this self-taught conductor to take up music seriously.

"Childhood friendships and sheer love of music have held the group together. Sunday afternoon rehearsals are a non-negotiable. The Tamil songs, especially keerthanais, are rendered with great feeling and the lyrics and thought come through with telling effect," says Suresh Kumar, senior officer at World Vision India.

The LMV has held concerts at several places in Tamil Nadu and many times in Bangalore. It has performed for FEBA Radio, AIR and Doordarshan. The troupe has produced an audio CD, "Aranaagiya Daevan" and three cassettes. In the pipeline is another Tamil album. Besides, the male voice group has provided backing vocals in numerous tapes for big names such as Rev. Dr. Sam Kamalesan. Every year the LMV organises a thanksgiving function and since 1980, a full-length concert once in five years.

The enthusiasm and sincerity are seen in the way the singers participate in programmes — easily 40 to 50 programmes, big and small, in a year, 20 or so of which are during the Christmas season alone. Many of us have seen them whizzing from one concert venue to another, perhaps located a cool 20 km away. Their many social activities include helping the children of Nava Jeevan Seva Mandal and supporting the education of poor tribal children.