CHENNAI: Ever spotted a donkey at a Christmas concert? Music enthusiasts in the city are in for a real treat with the Christmas concerts in the works this year. According to some of the popular choirs who receive call backs every year, rehearsals for this year’s slew of carol concerts began as early as October and conductors have gone well beyond the norm — planning everything from animal costumes for little ones reflecting the mini zoo you may recall at the nativity scene around the manger to planning for concerts outside the country to meet the demands of the festive season.
Says Augustine Paul, conductor of both the Madras Musical Association and the Octet Cantabile, “We are headed to Dubai this week for the Octet’s first concert of the season. So, as you can imagine, practices have been on for a few months now.” And with genres as widespread as country, rock ‘n’ roll and traditional Tamil — on this first set — it looks like it’s going to be quite a rollercoaster ride for fans.
The always-adorable four-year-olds of the Crotchets ‘n’ Quavers have something very different up their sleeves, or this year, ‘tails’ would probably be more fitting. With 65 kids singing this year, and a majority of them below 10, their conductor Jayanthi Prabakar decided to take the focus off the perfect the pitch and instead put it on having some fun with Christmas-themed cattle! “We’re going to have some fun playing dress up,” she says with a laugh. “And the costumes will go perfectly with our three songs planned which also all about the animals around the manger.”
With the Internet being googled through for carols with a fine tooth comb, sheet music being printed a dozen pages at a time and choral practices aplenty — December is the start of a month-long marathon for Chennai’s formidable choir community.
And just in case you’re thinking, heck we’ve heard it all before, here’s a game changer. In the heart of Chennai’s choir singers affluent with both the classics in English and regional Tamil songs is a congregation that specialices in Malayalam harmonies! “We sing English as well of course,” clarifies their conductor Vinod Simon. “But wherever we go, people insist we sing in Malayalam because it’s such as a rarity to hear in Chennai,” adds Vinod of the Celestial Voices. So yes, there’s no ‘been there, done that’ this Christmas season.
As for those not keen on carolling desi style, here’s a question. Aren’t you the least bit curious about what Jingle Bells would sound like in Malayalam?