As a visitor to India, locals have told me that sometimes things don’t appear on digital maps where it seems they should, or sometimes at all. Yet, when asking auto drivers if they could take me to Delhi School of Music, “near the US Embassy”, the typical response was “Music? Music! Yes, yes.” They know where it is, and there it has been, the Delhi School of Music (DSM), now for a half-century, growing to 1600-plus students of all ages. On February 19 at the Lotus Temple Auditorium, DSM presented a concert to celebrate their community’s 50 years of music.
Throughout the evening, the audience was able to hear the variety of instruments and styles taught at DSM, from classical piano and guitar to jazz and pop. As a guest choral specialist in the Delhi area, I had the privilege of preparing a choir for this event. Made up of voice teachers, instrumental teachers, and voice students, the choir rehearsed for two weeks leading up to the concert.
It’s because of Indian-born Neeta Helms that I ended up working here in India for two months, and at DSM specifically. “It makes me happy that on the concert to celebrate the Delhi School of Music’s 50th anniversary we had our Artistic Advisor Kevin Fox help create and train up a choir from within the Delhi School of Music’s teachers and students. Long ago in the late 70s and early 80s, my Father, Eric Daniel Helms was Chairman of the Delhi School of Music and I now have a Washington D.C.-based business, Classical Movements, that benefits from all those years of my piano study under Hosie Palamkote and the Delhi School of Music.”
It is fitting that a group of musicians puts together a choir to represent a community. Most obviously, a choir, like a school, is a group of people. But, singing in a group brings together a community in a special way; everybody has responsibility for his or her own part but must maintain the ability to constantly be listening to others. Like in a well-run institution, there is a level of awareness that is required to achieve synchronisation with the tempo and harmony of the others around you. People discover things about music, about themselves, and about others, together.
The choir learned Gabriel Faure’s Cantique de Jean Racine, in French, and César Franck’s Panis Angelicus, in Latin. Philippe Engel, Executive Director of DSM, also brought in a cake for the end of the concert, for which the choir sang Happy Birthday, including an original occasion-specific verse created by members of the choir. Many in the choir were experienced singers, and some had never sung before. In rehearsals, notes, rhythms, and words take first priority, and we went beyond that, working in dynamics, balance, and phrase shaping. And we did it all as a team with a common purpose, adding a dimension to music-learning and music-making that can only be experienced when done with others.
Connecting decades of history and thousands of kilometres, we could join voices to thank and congratulate those who dedicate themselves to the pursuit of music. Many thanks to those who made the choir and concert happen. Best wishes to DSM for their next 50 years of music education. Music? Music! Yes, yes.