In Pursuit of Perfection

It all began one Friday evening as prospective singers from the city of Coimbatore gathered to be auditioned by the well-known conductor and skilled violinist Faith Ragland who intended to begin a choir, one of its kind. He was quick to evaluate these fresh voices comprising children and adults.

Assigning their parts, the conductor had his new singers warm up for the very first time to a series of scales, arpeggios and octaves. As the voices built over, the singers realised that they were in for something much more distinguished than regular amateur singing.

With discipline and commitment as the major requirements, the very first foundation of Coimbatore Chamber Chorale (CCC) was laid out in January 2012. A tough task master that he was, Faith stressed on the importance of diction, vowel sounding and correct breath support. In a couple of months, the choir gave a transcending rendition of Stainer’s ‘God so loved the world’.

The intriguing world of Western classical music

Slowly pieces like Verdi’s ‘Va pensiero’ and Handel’s ‘He trusted in God’ were introduced to the choir. The music was intimidating. As the choir took its first step into the enormous world of Western classical music, the choristers struggled to be up to the expectations of the conductor. Faith’s expertise came to use as he imparted the vocal techniques that a classical choir needed. Practices were relentless and a steady progress was seen.

After back to back rehearsals, CCC made a bold venture in ‘Monsoon Rhapsody’ and engaged the audience with ‘Joshua fit the battle’ by Moses Hogan, ‘O Danny boy’ and various other challenging pieces. The choir attracted youngsters and grew in strength. CCC was later privileged to share stage with the Vienna University Choir under the eminent conductor Maestro Vijay Upadhyaya.

The repertoire was Mozart’s Missa Brevis KV140. The choristers could feel a new complexity in Mozart’s music. These concerts created a strong awareness of western Classical music among the Coimbatore audience. Following this, CCC appeared for a professional choral assessment at Silver level conducted by Trinity College of Music, London. The choir was awarded merit.

Pushing boundaries

Under the leadership of Faith, CCC held several concert tours, singing in various churches and music halls across South India. Getting acquainted to different acoustics during the tour was a learning curve in the choir’s pursuit of excellent singing. The repertoire broadened including Bruckner’s ‘Christus Factus’, Rheinberger’s ‘Abendlied’, Debussy’s ‘Trois Chanson’ and so on. In March 2015, CCC joined hands with the prestigious Madras Musical Association (MMA) and performed the famed three act oratorio Judas Maccabaeus by George Friderick Handel. The strong 140 voice choir was conducted by Augustine Paul and Faith Ragland. This Baroque oratorio still remains a favourite for many of Faith’s singers.

To exhibit versatility in music genres, CCC presented “Rhythm in the rain” a rock and pop concert in October 2016. A packed, enthusiastic audience saw the choir sway to some vibrant music from Beatles, Abba, Eric Clapton and Adele. Earlier this year, CCC and The Handel Manuel Chorus together performed the stately Coronation Mass by Mozart at the renowned Scudder auditorium in CMC Vellore.

CCC had been invited to perform Verdi’s Requiem in Vienna along with Vienna University Choir (VUC). Receiving adulation on an international choral stage was an unforgettable experience for the singers. Coimbatore Chamber Chorale was privileged to be trained by a few outstanding conductors like Maestro Vijay Upadhyaya, Augustine Paul and Sharada Schaffter. All of them have mentored and added a lot to what CCC stands today. The choir is more accomplished with one of its most recent presentations, Felix Mendelssohn’s ‘Elijah’, an intense oratorio belonging to the Romantic period. Alongside an orchestral ensemble and accomplished soloists, the choir justified the music. Coimbatore Chamber Chorale has come a long way and has a long way to go. The learning never ends and the idea of perfection is still worth the pursuit.