Poetry and music, according to Veronica Krishnayya, share a close affinity; it’s a combination that she truly loves. Every year, over the past two decades, Krishnayya, through her city-based choir group The Chamber Singers, presents a performance centred on a particular theme. The fact that this year marks English poet and playwright William Shakespeare’s 450th birth anniversary, gave her more than one reason to conceptualise her yearly choir presentation. The music concert titled Seranade For Shakespeare by The Chamber Singers was presented at Mazda Hall, Dastur School recently.
“From the Renaissance to 20th century, many important works of Shakespeare have been put to music by a variety of composers in powerful and evocative ways. Songs like Over Hill and Over Dale set by Ralph Vaughan Williams from the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Come Away Death set by Johannes Brahms from Twelfth Night are the songs that we don’t get to listen to every day. So in that sense, this music programme gave me an opportunity to be adventurous,” says Krishnayya, adding that the concert also includes Incidental Music composed by Felix Mendelssohn to evoke the fairy world in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Serenade to Music by Vaughan Williams, set to text from The Merchant of Venice.
The idea, says Krishnayya, stuck her in May this year, when she was in the middle of her previous concert in Goa. She discussed her thoughts with Paul Stewart, renowned concert pianist and professor of piano at the University of Montreal. Stewart has performed worldwide as a soloist with major orchestras. “He was very excited about the concept. We put together our ideas and conceptualised the programme which combines music, poetry and theatre,” says Krishnayya, the conductor of The Chamber Singers.
Putting together the entire act was a laborious process, says Krishnayya. “Music is a combination of text and notes; unless you understand the text, you cannot communicate the music to the audience. Not everyone in the choir group was well-versed with the Bard’s works. So first I had brief the choir members on the text, which was the base of the compositions. I had to turn them to Shakespeare through his music, plays and poetry,” she says.
Established 20 years ago, The Chamber Singers is a group of 30 people from various professional backgrounds and age-groups, bound by a common passion — choral music. The choir’s performances are rich with works from medieval to contemporary times — from a set of chants composed by the 12th century mystic nun Hildegard von Bingen to popular jazz songs from the Tin Pan Alley era. The group commands great plaudit for their performances, be it in Pune, Mumbai or Goa. In the past, The Chamber Singers have performed at the Rachol Seminary Chapel, on the occasion of the inauguration of the Museum of Christian Art; at the Monte Music Festival in Old Goa at the invitation of the Fundação Oriente and at the Con Brio Festivals in Mumbai.
In addition to the choral selection based on Shakespearean text, the concert will also feature readings from the plays and re-reciting of sonnets such as Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer’s Day, by Mumbai-based renowned theatre figure Gerson D’Cunha, along with a few others. The programme will end with the evergreen and universally popular love story of Romeo and Juliet with The Capulet’s Ball from Charles Gounod’s opera Romeo et Juliette.