Candles, carols & chirps
The 52nd year of ‘Carols by Candlelight’ organised by the Madras Musical Association (MMA) was a smashing success. Outdoors with feet on the grass at the St Christopher’s College of Education, Vepery and a slight chill in the air...loud throated birds chirping in trees – one couldn’t have asked for a better carol setting. The line up of choirs for the evening was fairly diverse: the Tones of Galilee (a five-member all girls youth group), the all Malayalam Celestial Voices and strong male baritones with The Canticles.
Perhaps the most memorable group of the evening was the vibrant El Fe choir. They didn’t seem to have a dress code as most of groups do, each sari was a different colour bringing in the festive mood even as they assembled on stage. But once the singing started, feet tapping and finger snapping seemed to happen involuntarily. With an effervescent pianist-cum-conductor, this peppy lot of youngsters brought on heaps of energy, as they belted out traditional carols with a modern-gospel twist. Jingle Bells, Joy To The World...all the favourites with even a little bit of rap thrown in the middle. Unfortunately, the good looking rapper who walked up front for this part had a bit of difficulty getting the old timers in the audience to rap a Christmas greeting in sync with him.
Then there was adorable kids choir Crochets ‘n’ Quavers who always make the highlight of any show. One would think that the ‘cuteness’ quotient for tiny tots would weigh higher than their vocal abilities, but it turns out the little ones bring the whole package. The tinies did action bits, waving their arms and hands on their hips indignantly in the mischievous I’m Getting Nothing For Christmas and in the more serious melody, Hope Was Born This Night — two 6-year-olds pulled off perfect solos and even took their turns at a harmony!
The finale as expected was the ever classic MMA choir and majestic in number, a sea of black blazers and red ties. Apart from their rehearsed selection of carols, the choir also did an impromptu rendition of Christmas Land, a composition by yesteryear Chennai composer, Robin Daniel. Said MMA president Ravi Santhosham, who look the lead on vocals, “We haven’t practised this one, so we’re just going to wing it!” With choir conductor Augustine Paul on the guitar (not a sight you get to see too often), this was a very different side of the prim and proper MMA choir that music buffs know so well.
The evening came to a close with the main event – community carol singing by candle light. It didn’t matter if one had an elderly uncle singing off key in the next seat, one joined in loudly anyway – hey, that’s why they call it a ‘Merry’ Christmas.