Catch Carols, Ballet And The Magic Of Christmas On-Stage

Catch Carols, Ballet And The Magic Of Christmas On-Stage

'A Classical Christmas - An Evening of Carols and Ballet' is a performance that promises to be as enchanting as Santa's workshop at The Royal Opera House

Kasmin FernandesUpdated: Tuesday, December 12, 2023, 04:30 PM IST
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Christmas, carols, and ballet have been the peanut butter, jelly, and bread of holiday celebrations for centuries. Carols started off as medieval party songs. As Christmas spread like a festive wildfire, these carols morphed into the soundtrack of the season. Meanwhile, ballet pirouetted its way out of the Renaissance and into our hearts, becoming the refined art form we know and love. And then, in 1892, Tchaikovsky dropped The Nutcracker like a hot new album, forever linking ballet with Christmas.

Fast forward to now, and we have the Royal College of Music, London, The Harmony Chorus, The Lewis Foundation of Classical Ballet, Furtados, and Avid Learning teaming up like the Avengers of classical music and dance. They're presenting 'A Classical Christmas - An Evening of Carols and Ballet' under the artistic direction of Sandra Oberoi that's guaranteed to be more heartwarming than a cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows. Book your tickets on Paytm Insider and head over to The Royal Opera House in South Mumbai on December 20th for the celebration.

The lineup is a dream team of holiday performances. They have soloists Tiana Oberoi and Tiara Oberoi, joined by The Harmony Chorus, with Avinash Grubb on piano. Tiana is an 18-year-old soprano prodigy, while Tiara is a musical theatre whiz and composition prize winner. The Harmony Chorus isn't just any group of singers; they're like the Pitch Perfect of choirs, minus the acapella throwdowns. Founded by Sandra Oberoi in 2008, they've been finalists on Colors TV’s Rising Star and cultural ambassadors abroad.

In an exclusive interview with FPJ, Sandra Oberoi shared that the evening's playlist includes hits from Britten’s "Ceremony of Carols" and other favourites by Rutter. She said, “In the broader context of Christmas traditions in India, this collaborative concert serves as a cultural kaleidoscope, where the age-old melodies of Handel and Britten, the contemporary brilliance of Rutter, and the magic of Tchaikovsky converge. Christmas is about the eternal gift of life given to us because of the birth of Christ. This concert tells the story with performance brilliance, creative storytelling and pure joy. The participation of children in the choir symbolises the passing down of traditions from one generation to the next.”

FPJ in conversation with director Sandra Oberoi:

Could you share the inspiration behind the selection of pieces for this concert, particularly the blend of Britten, Handel, Rutter, and Tchaikovsky?

When we choose new music to sing each season, it's usually based on what the group is capable of handling vocally while supporting the development of new skills. Britten's Ceremony of Carols, offers a delightful challenge – pushing the children to explore nuances and technical work needed while offering a lens of viewing it through their eyes – as A Ceremony of Carols was traditionally written for boy trebles, soloists and harp accompaniment. Its text consists of an eclectic mix of anonymous medieval texts and later poems rather than familiar carols. In creating this programme, I was keen to not just challenge my choir, but to share with our audience a refreshing take on Christmas music that hasn't been performed by a children's choir in India before.

The inclusion of Britten's Ceremony of Carols reflects an appreciation for the rich heritage of Western classical music, allowing Indian audiences to experience the beauty of a traditional English Christmas. The delicate interplay of voices with the accompaniment create a captivating atmosphere that resonates with the magic of the season. Handel's timeless music brings a grandeur to the concert that echoes the universal message of hope and redemption associated with Christmas. It adds a touch of grandiosity to the evening. Rutter's music, known for its uplifting and jubilant character, adds a contemporary touch to the concert, bridging the gap between classical and modern expressions of Christmas joy. His compositions, often featuring children's choirs, align seamlessly with the youthful exuberance of the performers, creating a connection that transcends generations. Tchaikovsky's spellbinding melodies are accompanied by the graceful movements of the young dancers, a visual and auditory treat to complete the evening.

How do you envision the combination of choral works and ballet influencing the audience's experience of this Christmas concert?

Audiences can expect to be treated to an eclectic programme of Christmas music, some rarely heard in India along with familiar repertoire, that is generally performed around the world as part of the festivities. A seamless blend of rich vocal harmonies, dotted with thrilling solos and duets, and beautiful choreography with the ballerinas taking the stage is sure to brighten the evening. Performers are largely adolescents invested in building their craft. It will be a treat to watch these young peoples’ sensitive, sublime and skilled interpretations of the music.

How did the collaboration with the Lewis Foundation of Classical Ballet come about?

Yana Lewis and I had been thinking about collaborating for several years since we are both from the same city and most importantly share similar pedagogical values. We are committed to empowering young people using performing arts as a medium. Our busy schedules, until this point, didn't allow for this exciting collaboration to happen. However, earlier this year, I reached out to her with my vision for a Western classical-themed Christmas concert and asked if she would be interested to work with us.

Tell us more about the Harmony Chorus.

All members of my award-winning choir The Harmony Chorus are students of music at Harmony- The Music School, an institution I started 15 years ago to provide 'music with a purpose'. The Harmony Chorus placed at India’s Top 8 on the reality singing show Rising Star 2 on Colors TV. Winners of the UK Choir Festival’s award for Choral Excellence ’19, they have performed at St. Giles Cathedral in Scotland, at The Nehru Centre in London and at the University of York besides Peel Centenary Centre. In Russia, they sang at Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in association with the Moscow Children’s Education Department, the Gnessin Russian Academy of Music and the Embassy of India in Moscow.

Through their performances, they often create awareness on climate change, mental health issues, support the education of lesser-privileged children, raise funds for various orphanages, old age homes and community hospitals in Bangalore city. They are the recipients of the 2019 Rotary Youth Award for their service through music as cultural ambassadors.

What journey do you hope to take the audience on?

I’m keen on taking our audience through a short, exciting and memorable journey of unpacking the Christmas story through artistic storytelling. I hope the audience catches a glimpse of what is possible when young children commit themselves to making beautiful art together and celebrate this. We will explore the themes of community, togetherness, and the joy of the season with music and dance. We will then continue on to explore the emotional range of Tchaikovsky's music, from the enchanting melodies of The Nutcracker to the dramatic and expressive dance moments in Swan Lake. With my soloists, Tiana and Tiara, I am keen on teasing out moments of reflection and technical artistry.

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