Choirs that transcend boundaries

In a breath-taking performance, The Yale Schola Cantorum and Juilliard 415 executed its first ever show in India with five concerts across Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, the first one being in the Capital’s Lotus Temple. The concert in New Delhi highlighted specially commissioned musical innovation in the form of a fusion between the East and the West. David Hill, the conductor of Yale & Juilliard 415 and Neeta Helms, President, Classical movements share with Millennium Post their thoughts on how choral music concerts around the globe can change the outlook of music industry.

How does the tour of Yale and Juilliard help bring the much deserved attention towards choral music?

With the presence of its own illustrious classical music heritage, the Indian audience has always had an ear for good music. Having said that, we must also understand that such refined work of art is not always easily accessible to the masses. As Western classical music continues to gain a bigger foothold in India, it’s important that audiences throughout the country have the opportunity to hear great performances of instrumental and choral repertoire — like the glorious Bach Magnificat. It is through increased levels of visibility and integration into the popular culture, through our unique and aiding programs, we seek to bring in the much-needed attention towards choral music. Also, the new composition we had written especially for this tour plays a big role as it combines Indian and western instruments.

David, do you think that choral music is the revolution that’s needed in the present time?

Love, faith or belief like many other emotions can be tied together in melodic unity. Reproducing it proficiently is no less than revolution. Given the present time, be it with the ensembles back home in England or teaching in America at Yale, making music is a revolutionary act in itself. Western classical music and in that context choral music is the much-needed systematic approach to the musical pandemonium that exits in the world today. Greats like Mozart, Beethoven and Bach among others have shown us the way and enriched our outset with their rich musical philosophy. Clearly, their work is still relevant, being widely performed across the globe. Choral music is a reflection of such school of thought and philosophy. Young artists, composers and performers across the globe are understanding the need and studying the nuances of choral music and application of A cappella more intensively. As a result, they are coming up with experimental and interesting work, pushing the boundaries constantly. Just look at the title of Reena Esmail’s brand-new composition we’re performing. Entitled ‘The Love Between Us: Prayers for Unity’, it explores seven religions through seven scriptures in eight different languages, featuring a tabla and a sitar. Her message is clear, brilliant and quite revolutionary.

And how do you think that choral music can bring about a revolution in the music industry?

Choirs literally bring people together. I fundamentally believe in the universal language of music to transcend borders and foster true understanding between nationalities; choral singing is the shining example of that power. Be it communities or religious services, the existence and application of choral music is one that has stood the test of time and taste of diverse cultures across the globe. It has before and would continue to bring many voices together shaping thoughts, emotions and inciting revolution in the hearts and mind of people regardless of class, culture, religion, colour or sex.

Neeta, how much potential do you think India Choral Fellowship has in changing the unfazed music industry?

For starters, all three Indian choirs that performed alongside Yale Schola Cantorum and Juilliard 415 on this tour (Capital City Minstrels in Delhi, Madras Youth Choir and Madras Musical Association in Chennai) were first introduced to Yale and Juilliard via Classical Movements’ India Choral Fellowship. What Classical Movements is doing for Western-style singing in India is truly remarkable. Regarding ICF’s potential for change, only the beautiful Indian sky is the limit, as collaborations and melodic partnerships would pave a path for enhanced cultural exchange and refinement of musical outlook. ICF is a platform through which we will continue to facilitate change and diversity against stagnation and fill the air with the fresh sound of music.

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