Touring with Gustav

And so it was time again – bags were packed, kurtas ironed, music in the files and voices full of anticipation. The Bangalore Men goes on tour!

After having done two appreciated concerts with Choral Hymns from The Rig Veda, it was time to make two performances in God’s own country – Kerala. Going by train is always an excellent way of bonding, and after an evening with dumb charades, unhealthy snacking and lots of tea, the team arrived at Ernakulam station, early morning of the 13th of October. The first concert venue was inspected – David Hall Art Gallery in Fort Kochi – and turned out to be an exquisite old Dutch bungalow, turned art gallery, with good acoustics, interesting art on the walls and very friendly and helpful management.

Rehearsals followed, together with our pianist Vimal Kurian, and we soon realized that it is with music as with wine – it matures if it rests! Not having sung the Choral Hymns since end of August, we now returned to them with fresh eyes and a different sound, giving us a chance to revisit what we previously have done, correct places that needed correction and also work with enhanced dynamics and expression. We did have a couple of guys not being able to come with us due to work commitments and illness – how to manage that, making sure that all voices still sound balanced and complement each other? The challenge for any choir leader is to be able to be agile and flexible in these situations, moreover to have a choir that is agile and flexible, and that you have the possibility to reshuffle voices, perhaps omit a bar or two where required, but not tampering with the overall artistic intention of the composer – and of course not cancel the performance – which would truly have been a disappointment both to us and the audience! Learning – make sure to know where you can allow yourself to take certain liberties and shortcuts, make sure you have choir members who are agile and flexible to quickly learn new parts, and make sure to have the right sizing of your instrument (the choir) in order to be able to deal with unforeseen situations.

After lunch, sightseeing in beautiful Fort Kochi and some rest, it was time for concert. Our performance had very generously been covered by both The Hindu and The New Indian Express, so we had a good chance of having a full house, and lo and behold – when the clock struck 7, every chair in the gallery was occupied, and we also had patrons standing along the walls. True to tradition – we started the concert on time, after a brief introduction by the manager of David Hall Art Gallery, and soon the sound of Holst was resounding in the velvet Kerala evening. For this performance, we did a repeat of all the pieces from our Bangalore-concert, meaning Groups 2 to 4 of the Choral Hymns, as well as solos from the Vedic Hymns and piano solos. The concert was highly appreciated, and with promises to return sooner than later, we bid good night to Fort Kochi.

The next day started off on yet another train journey, heading further south to Trivandrum. We had been invited by the Trivandrum Centre for Performing Arts, and Mr Satish Kamat, to do a concert in collaboration with TCPA and the Trivandrum Chorister Association. The venue this time was a well-known five star hotel in the city centre, where we were to perform in one of the larger reception halls. A grand piano had been provided, and the ambience vouched for a sophisticated evening of music, drawing music lovers from all over the city. The particular challenge this evening, was acoustics. Without much of reverb (read – none), the choir had to project and produce as never before! The best way to get a choir that can perform under any circumstances, is really to rehearse in a really dry environment, from an acoustics point of view, and never rely upon help from reverb – you never know how the acoustics would be at your next venue!

The concert went off very well, and we also had the opportunity to interact with the audience as well as our fellow choir mates from the Trivandrum Chorister Association. Meeting other passionate singers is always a pleasure – and really encapsulates the spirit of music – collaboration! We were very honoured to be covered by a local news channel, which made a clip about the concert.

Our journey with Gustav is soon drawing to an end, and our concerts in New Delhi on 3rd and 4th November 2017 will mark the end of this amazing learning. Having discovered music rarely performed, and singing it in the context from where the composer drew his inspiration has really been a mindblowing experience. We have reached a new audience, we have raised our own bar of difficulty when it comes to repertoire and we have been able to interact with so many wonderful supporters and concert visitors during the way. With that – Namaste Dilli and see you on 3rd November at India International Centre or on 4th November at The British School!