Choir off on English tour – Carols & rythms SUBHRO SAHA

Members of the Dr Graham’s Homes choir in town for two performances over the weekend. Picture by Aranya Sen

It’s taken them five years to make it to Covent Garden via Calcutta. And that’s just part of the learning curve for the young members of the Dr Graham’s Homes choir.

If Calcuttans have been greeting them with a spontaneous ‘thank you for the music’’ these past few winters, the city has also changed the lives for many of these talented kids from Kalimpong.

“You often need an annual event to project the work of an organisation. Calcutta has given these children the platform to realise the kind of chemistry they can create with the audience when they perform on a big stage,” observes M.J. Robertson, president and chairman, board of management of the Homes.

A 30-member group, handpicked from the choir of the Kalimpong school founded by Rev. J.A. Graham in 1900, will embark on a whistle-stop tour of the UK in April next year, kicking off in London and winding up at Inverness. To be organised by the Homes’ UK committee, the tour will be supported by a trust formed by UK benefactors.

“The trust was formed with the £200,000 raised by the benefactors after The Daily Telegraph in London carried the Homes story as a Christmas Appeal article six years ago. The only other Indian institution/subject to be featured in that section were the Sealdah station children,” recalls Robertson.

The overture for the Kalimpong choir’s overseas trip was played out in the winter of 2004-05 when the Homes sent choirmaster Shane Saviel to the UK for picking up tune tips that could enrich his repertoire and help reach out to a wider audience.

“I remember standing in the queue from six in the morning in that bitter cold for nine carol lessons at Kings College, Cambridge, which boasts one of the finest choirs in the UK,” says Shane. He has used some of those typical English influences to lay out a traditional carol concert at St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday.

The Children’s City in Concert on the Race Course lawns (Sunday, December 10) aims to bring out the feisty face of the choir, while showcasing the kids’ versatility with rhythms, spanning a spectrum that touches Andrew Lloyd Webber and Diana Ross, Phil Collins and Westlife.

“So, while we have the staples like Circle of Life and Ma Tujhe Salaam, which the Calcutta audiences have come to love, there are a bunch of smashing new numbers as well,” promises Shane, whose 11-year-old daughter Nicole Urvi is also a soloist in the choir.

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