Making melodies together

When a world famous Swiss orchestra came to town, Shyama Krishna Kumar spoke to its conductor, Christopher Whiting

Published: 20th October 2013 08:40 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th October 2013 08:40 AM   |  A+A-


Bangalore was swashed with the mellifluous sounds and strains of Western classical music that brought out emotions and attracted lot of crowds. Recently, the city saw a collaboration of sorts with Bangalore's Cecilian Choir and Bangalore School of Music Chamber Orchestra performing with Winterthurer Symphoniker, a world renowned orchestra from Switzerland.

Catching up with Christopher Morris Whiting, the conductor and director of Winterthurer Symphoniker, a man who is head over heels in love with his music, was itself a great experience. Watching him conduct his orchestra, one gets the feeling of being in the presence of a unique entity, drowning in the throes of his music; and akin to watching a moving art.

"It's quite an interesting and exciting city. It's nothing like I've experienced before. The number of people, all honking and smiling at the same time, it's incredible. And we've been making a lot of music, ever since we've gotten here. But the one excursion that we did make was to Mysore, and we also played a concert there. So any opportunity to display music, we're excited," says Whiting, summing up their experience in Bangalore.

Unique collaboration

The Wintethurer Symphoniker is collaborating with the Cecilian Choir for the first time. With less than a week for practice, out of which they only got two whole days to actually spend time and practice with each other, they were truly racing against time to put the show together. Watching them rehearse right before their second show in the city, it looked like they had been doing this forever.

"It's been absolutely wonderful working with them. Donning their saris, they form the most attractive choir I've seen so far. And their spirit of idealism and of constantly striving for perfection is inspiring, and it's been wonderful working with them. We're all facing our challenges but we've found each other as well, and I think it's created something beautiful in the process," smiles Whiting.

Classical experience

Western classical music in itself is no easy feat, and it comes with its own set of challenges and hurdles. "The music itself is tough, it's not pop music. It's technically demanding and also musically very expressive. That's the joy of it. If it were so simple, I don't think we would be as enriched by it." explains Whiting.

The orchestra performed four pieces, with two of them along with the Cecilian choir. The pieces were decided three months in advance so that the choir could practice their bit in Bangalore.

Musical relationship

"There's a sort of theme running through the pieces, a musical relationship among the composers. We've come with pieces that are close to our culture. All four composers - Carl Maria von Weber, Joseph Haydn Cantate, Robert Schumann and Ludwig Van Beethoven - are all from the German romantic and classical tradition. So, Winterthurer is sort of a southern tip of this culture which is close to us. And then there's also a musical relationship between the Haydn, Schumann and Beethoven pieces, they are all about human beings and their experience about being in nature. The storm, the night and the third one is the pastoral symphony. These pieces don't draw a picture of nature but are really just exploring the feelings of a person who is close to nature. Fear or joy or the feeling of being small or feeling of gratitude - all kinds of feelings," explains Whiting, who could have spoken about music all evening.

German touch

The Cecilian choir sang Schumann's piece titled 'Nachtlied' in German. "The important thing is that we actually understand them when they sing in German,"laughs Whiting. "Yes, their pronunciation is very good, and they've done a very good job, I think. They had a choice to do both the pieces in English, but they decided to do one in English and the other in German. It made sense because the Hayden was originally performed in English. So the original text is actually in English and was later translated into German. For the second piece, we did find an English translation, but they chose to do it in German because they all just love another challenge, and that's a commendable gesture," says Whiting.

Overwhelming response

"We had a tremendous response when we performed at Chowdaiah hall. I think we could have filled the auditorium once more, with the number of people pouring in. And of course, when they gave us two standing ovations at the end of the concert, it was very moving," says Whiting.

Talking about his favourite moments in Bangalore, the orchestra conductor said, "You know, a group of us went to the Bangalore School of Music. And we had a real exchange there, with the violinists, cellists, pianists and flautists. They played for us all afternoon and we worked with them the entire evening. And we played a concert of over an hour together. It was such a joy to spend the entire evening together and making music together and seeing how they practice and how enthusiastic they are about the music. We truly felt blessed for this opportunity."

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