Capital City Minstrels begin Christmas season on a high note

Akrita Reyar

Come Holiday season and Delhi is in for a treat from Capital City Minstrels. This year has been no exception. Throughout this week, the choir gave recitals to jam packed halls, ringing in the festivities with much joie de vivre.

Beginning with the Hungarian Cultural Centre, the Minstrels carried cheer to the India Habitat Centre and finally Epicentre Mall in Gurgaon. If what the little bird told me is right, the culmination rightly was on a high note - at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

Under the baton of Fiona Hedgar-Gourlay, the choral group presented some classical pieces like Beethoven’s ‘Joyful, Joyful’ and Leontovich’s ‘Carol of the Kings’.

Soloists Marian Casey and Manvi Gupta inaugurated the show with W Gaither’s ‘What Did You Say was the Baby’s Name?’ Vanshika Mahajan and Thomas Koshy followed with ‘Who Would Imagine a King’. Koshy also sang a solo – ‘The Three Kings’.

Neeraj Devraj and Anna Stratis sang a traditional English melody – ‘What Child is this’. Tenor Neeraj also gave an outstanding solo ‘Mary Did You Know’. Anna, a British national, sang a classical English solo – ‘Coventry Carol’.

Sameer Guha, Debbie and debutant Rhea Gracias rendered the classic ‘Ave Maria’.

Tibor Kovacs, who is also the Hungarian Cultural Centre’s director, presented a traditional Hungarian piece ‘Menybol ar Angyal (Angels from Heaven)’.

The merriest among the lot, Reuben Israel, invited children on stage as he crooned ‘O Happy Day’.

The traditional French carol – ‘Angels We Have Heard on a High’ - was sung by the choir.

Among the other pieces in the repertoire presented were: ‘The Little Drummer Boy’, ‘Angel’s Carol’, ‘The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy’, ‘Tis a Wonderful’, ‘Carols Around(and Around)’, ‘The Little Light of Mine’ and ‘Christ is Born’.

Intermittently, portions were read out to the audience explaining the meaning and context of Christmas and the episodes related with it.

Supporting the choir were Nise Meruno on the piano, Rie Ona on the saxophone and Suchet Malhotra as a multi-percussionist.

The talented Nise, who started learning piano at the age of six, is also a Bass singer as well as a composer and has worked with several well-known conductors.

Besides performing with the choir, Rie Ona also plays sax with Delhi band ‘the Ska Vengers’. And Suchet is drummer with world jazz fusion band HFT. He plays the table, cajon, djembe, darbouka, bongos and a variety of native, ambient and tribal drums and percussion instruments.

The multi-national choir, combining Indian musical aficionados and expats, has been giving performances since 1994.

Fiona Hedgar-Gourlay, a British national, was performing for the last time with the choir as her stint in India now comes to an end. She has worked in music and musical theatre in the UK and Europe since 1982, performing at the Aldwych Theatre, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Richmond Theatre among others. She has also appeared on BBC and Malta TV.

The choir group this year also performed on Gandhi Jayanti in Kashmir to an enthusiastic audience. They have also been well received in schools like Sanawar and Doon, where the choir encouraged young children to take up music.

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