City group mixes Indian tunes with choral music

The 29-member choral group, ‘The Harmony Chorus’, has just returned from a three-city tour of the United Kingdom.

Bengaluru-based choral group ‘The Harmony Chorus’ from Harmony - The Music School, were invited to perform on a three-city concert tour of United Kingdom. The group is known for its unique renditions of western classical pieces and Bollywood music. The choir reached India’s top eight in ‘Rising Star 2’, a programme on Colors TV. In a quick chat with Metrolife, Sandra Oberoi, the conductor and director of the choir, shares their experiences of the recent tour.

Tell us about your experience of performing abroad?
This is The Harmony Chorus’ second international trip. After Russia, we did a three-city concert tour around the UK - London, York and Edinburgh in Scotland.

The experience was humbling and exciting for us to share our music in a country where choral traditions serve as an inspiration for choral music all over the world. Performing at prestigious places and for astute audiences, receiving appreciation and awards for our choral excellence and finally experiencing the music and culture of the country were incredible experiences.

What was special about the places you performed in?
The one at London was in collaboration with the Indian High Commission’s Cultural Wing, United Nations Association for Development and Peace (UNADAP) and Harmony -- the music school, Bengaluru. It was held at The Nehru Centre. The concert in Edinburgh was at the majestic and historic St Giles Cathedral, a building that was founded in the 12th century! It was a place with great acoustics. In York we sang at the UK Choir Festival and received the award for Choral Excellence from the festival leaders like Russell Scott (founder of the UK Choir Festival), Richard Eteson (former Swingle Singer and Kings Choir singer), Charles MacDoughall (award-winning tenor and founding member of VOCES8), and Craig Lees (former member of the National Youth Choir of Great Britain) to name a few.

What were the pieces that you performed?
Each concert was quite different. Our repertoire was varied and extremely diverse. For the concert at The Nehru Centre, we performed a 60-minute set of Indian folk pieces and Bollywood medleys that I arranged for the choir. At St Giles Cathedral, we sang some sacred music, 20th century A cappella pieces by Whitacre and Ticheli, pop and gospel songs as well as some Indian music and folk music from around the world.

For the concerts at York, we sang a mix of both Western Classical repertoire, world music and Bollywood.

How different is performing in the UK from performing in India?
We have always enjoyed performing for our audiences, in India and abroad. I think the one aspect that really stood out was the fact that there were a lot of highly accomplished choral educators and singers in some of our audiences in the UK. Receiving praise and appreciation from them served as a validation for what we do. 

Did you face any difficulties there?
Performing in the UK was a little different from performing in Russia as language wasn’t a barrier at all. The choir was able to not just watch the appreciation among the audiences when they sang but felt wonderful when people walked up to them and told them how much they enjoyed each performance.

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