The ‘Tales of the Night’ concert series, produced by Akadêmia (France) in association with The Majolly Music Trust (Bangalore) and the Poona Music Society supported by The Institut Françias and The French Embassy of India, was held in Bangalore, Delhi and Pune in the first week of February, 2016.
We attended the Delhi performance at the Bahá’í House of Worship, and interviewed Françoise Lasserre, conductor of Akademia. Here are extracts from our conversation:
Why is India important for you?
It is a long story. I travelled a lot with my mother when I was 18. She really loved this country.
I find it completely different when we are working here. Three years ago we worked with the Neemrana Music Foundation and produced Orpheo with Francis Wacziarg. It was wonderful to mix Indian culture with early Western music. Some Indian musicians joined us for our Tales of the Night series!
Tell us about your Tales of the Night concert series.
I read Vikram Seth translated in French and fell in love with his poetry. I asked Justin McCarthy if this concert was a good idea with Vikram Seth’s poetry so I could find some links and different moods for the night. It was an amalgamation of poetry and Romantic music – For me it is important to mix different kinds of artistic ventures.
Why did you decide to involve Indian singers for this project?
For me, it is not very interesting to come only with European musicians to perform concerts all over India. I want to share with Indians and train them to improve their quality of performance. There are so many exchanges between our choirs. Among my musicians, some are very young; they are so happy to share music together. The harmony between the Indian and French choirs is the most important thing for me.
We have a small opera performance coming up in France – La serva padrona (The Servant Turned Mistress), which is an opera buffa by composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. We are back to India in August to prepare the Indian choir for a tour in France.
What advice do you have for aspiring musicians in India?
Focus on one genre of music and its repertoire. Young singers in India today are shuffling between various genres. In my opinion, this is not the way forward. One must understand the music thoroughly and avoid being self-taught from sources such as YouTube to perform it well.
We also spoke with Justin McCarthy, Sunit Tandon, and Shatrughun Jiwnani on their views of the evening’s performance.
“I am involved with this project because of Françoise Lasserre. She is just fantastic. This is the third time I am working with her. I have complete faith in her musical ideas and along with the music she likes to bring in elements of other arts. This time it was poetry. It was a wonderful experience. The whole evocation of the night through music and poetry was a great idea. I was very happy to be a part of these concerts.”
– Justin McCarthy, pianist
“It was a really delightful experience for me to work with Akademia and Françoise Lasserre and also Justin McCarthy for the “Tales of the Night” tour. The programme was designed with great intelligence and sensitivity to reflect various aspects of the night and some of the moods and expressions it evokes in Romantic German Vocal Music. The wonderful choral and vocal works Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms and Richard Strauss in the programme were interspersed with brief selections from the evocative poetry of Vikram Seth, which I had the privilege to recite. It was a particular pleasure to have Vikram Seth himself attending the Delhi concert and expressing his approval of the venture. And it was a real privilege for a non-musician music lover like me to see the seamless manner in which the artistry of Indian and French musicians was melded into a memorable experience for audiences, as well as for all of us on stage.”
– Sunit Tandon, narrator
The concerts here are held under the Temple’s own banner ‘ONE OCEAN’ – unity through the arts. The term One Ocean comes from the Bahá’í writing where the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, Baha’u’llah, refers to mankind as “drops of one ocean and waves of one sea”. The One Ocean series is about celebrating unity through the arts and is a reflection of one of the major principles of the Bahá’í Faith – Unity in Diversity. Art is not only a ladder to the soul – it is also a universal language that transcends man made barriers of race, cultures, religions and social status.
There is lovely quote in the Bahá’í writings that says: “The diversity in the human family should be the cause of Love and Harmony as it is in music where many different notes blend together in the making of a perfect chord”.
It is interesting to see how we tend to make our religions different from the other. We fail to see that the spiritual message of all divine religions is the same that of Love, Peace and Brotherhood. If there is a difference, it is in the social teachings as each religion is born in a different social context few hundred years apart. We fail to notice that each religion is born into another religion. The Buddha was born within Hinduism and Christ into Judaism. Their message was not that the people have been following a wrong religion, but that men have forgotten the true religion… that they have forgotten the way of the Lord. We fail to see that each religion is one step forward towards an ever-advancing civilization.
“All human beings,” wrote Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, “have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization.” Thus, every person, every community and every nation have been vested with an obligation to play their part in building a peaceful and prosperous global society.
Man is essentially a noble being and has a dual nature: that of material and spiritual. Materially we have come a long way from where we were as cavemen and hunters to where we are today. But, spiritually, we are dwarves riddled with conflict and prejudice and greed. It is this area that we, as individuals, as communities and as nations, need to work on if we want to live in peace and harmony with one another.
– Shatrughun Jiwnani, Director of Office of Public Information – Bahá’í House of Worship
It’s name, borrowed from greek philosopher Plato’s garden, testifies of the humanist roots of Françoise Lasserre’s artistic approach.
Her repertory is focused on major vocal and instrumental works of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, combining the rigour of musicological research and respect for the musical sources with the desire to arouse genuine emotion.
Akademia’s artistic project is focused on making ancient music travel in today’s world by creating a lasting bridge between Indian and Western culture, between music and contemporary arts like dance or literature, etc.
After the success of recreation of Bach’s major musical compositions: St Matthew Passion and Mass in B minor, Akademia proposed a new approach of Bach’s music, combining it with a contemporary text commissioned to poet Jean-Pierre Siméon. “Passion: They will nail me on the wood” was created and recorded in 2014 and will tour in the biggest French festivals in 2015.
In the last few years, Akademia has worked with choreographers Jean-Christophe Maillot and Sidi Larbi Charkaoui, with stage director François Rancillac or with the contemporary poet Jean-Pierre Siméon.
An exceptional realization of Orfeo, Crossing the Ganges from Claudio Monteverdi’s, in coproduction with the The Neemrana Music Foundation and the Cité de la Musique in Paris was the occasion to a ‘passage to India’ in 2013. Widely acclaimed, this production will tour again in Europe and India in 2016.
Akadêmia is also strongly committed to introducing a wide range of audiences to its repertory by many outreach activities in France and abroad, and to facilitating the early career of young professional musicians.
The ensemble’s extensive discography, which has won widespread critical acclaim, includes 15 recordings dedicated to Schütz, Monteverdi, Landi, Bach, Cavalli and Palestrina.
Akademia is hosted in residence in Reims City. It receives support from the Région Champagne-Ardenne, The Conseil Général de la Marne, and several sponsors like Mécénat Musical Société Générale (main patron), Champagne Boizel or X-PM – partner for the international projects.
Akadêmia is supported by the Champagne-Ardenne Region, the Department of Marne, the City of Reims and the Department of Ardennes .
Mécénat Musical Société Générale is Akadêmia’s main sponsor.
Partners in France: Champagne Boizel, Plurial-Novillia
Partners in India: French Institute and French Embassy in India, Société Générale, Moët Hennessy, X-PM.