Published: 15th June 2017
Live at Kennedy Centre: The Madras Youth Choir's compositions to find harmony in Washington DC
One of the oldest choral groups has been invited to participate in the Washington DC Choral Festival
The Madras Youth Choir (MYC), one of the oldest Indian choral music groups that blend Indian classical and folk music with Western harmonic arrangements, has been invited to participate in the Washington DC Choral Festival celebrating John F Kennedy’s 100th birthday and the Peace Corps from June 27 to July 3. Among the 14 concerts slated to be performed at historic venues in Washington DC, Virginia and Maryland, six will be at the Kennedy Center. We caught up with S Ram, Executive Committee Member, MYC to talk about choral music and the festival. Excerpts:
How is MYC popularising Indian choral music among the youth?
MYC conducts choir music classes and workshops in schools and colleges. Last year, we saw the participation of 600 children from 20 schools. MYC has a children’s choir for the age group of 5 to 15, where they can experience the joy of singing together without any kind of differences.
What songs is the MYC performing at the festival?
Our repertoire will consist of 20 songs at different venues and in different languages, ranging from simple harmonies to complex choral arrangements. We are deeply honoured to have been given this opportunity to compose a piece to be premiered at the 2017 Serenade Washington DC Choral Festival. It is a medley of seven songs embodying the spirit of love, freedom, courage, unity, friendship, patriotism and peace, held dear by John F Kennedy. The compositions are in different Indian languages — drawing inspiration from Subramania Bharati, Indian folk tradition, Martin Luther King Jr, and M B Sreenivasan, the founder of MYC.
This type of music brings people together to create music which is the key. It fosters unity, camaraderie and togetherness amongst the singers
S Ram, Executive Committee Member, MYC
Do you think that choral music is the revolution that's needed at the present time?
A lot of people in America sing in choirs because of the enhanced joy that they receive in this music genre. There’s harmony, rhythm and a drama in choir music that is enjoyed by people all over the world. We can see that happening in India given the richness of Indian classical music and its similarity to the Western classical genre. Neeta Helms of Classical Movements USA, a premier concert company, has started the India Choral Fellowship (ICF), through which they seek to foster the development of Indian choral tradition. We are also working together with our local partners in New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai — blending Western classical music’s rich history with the ancient heritage of Indian classical music.
And what about a revolution in the music industry?
The goals of the choir are to popularise Indian choral music and the idea of singing together, spreading it to the masses, and particularly training children in this genre of music. Members are engaged in various professions and the choir provides a platform to learn, relax and enjoy music. What binds us together is the passion for music and the joy in spreading choral music, singing compositions by great poets, and teaching children in various schools including the underprivileged, and inducting young members. ‘Come, Let's Sing Together’ is our motto which transcends age.
On July 3 at the Kennedy Center, dubbed as the ‘Finale Concert’, there will be a mass choir wherein participants from all countries will sing two songs together to be conducted by Joshua Habermann, Director of Dallas Symphony Center.
How will Washington help bring the much-deserved attention towards choral music?
It will draw massive attention in India given that we are performing at the iconic Kennedy Center. We have also reached out to the Indian diaspora in the Washington DC area. Apart from local coverage, many Indians are expected to come to the festival. MYC is affiliated to Sangeet Natak Akademi, the premier body in India for Fine Arts and through this medium, this event along with our participation will garner a lot of exposure.