Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Duruflé the organ?

6:30am today found 17 of us at the beautiful St. Marks cathedral for a rehearsal, shivering our timbers in the morning draft . A few minutes later, the young organist climbed nervously into his seat, high up above us. He's good. A little shy and perhaps not used to the exacting standards of the choir director (aka Girl 1), who chewed him to bits during the first run through, but he survived. The sombre acoustics of the cathedral seem to suit the choir's voices exceedingly well though, especially that of Blonde Counter-Tenor (baritone this time) who sounds clear as an elven bell.

Those of you that have never heard a pipe organ in a church must rectify this immediately. It is the only instrument that can fill you with awe, fear, calm, sorrow, joy and peace all in the span of a few minutes. You can easily imagine it to be a huge living breathing being, capable of bursting into a thousand booming voices that occupy every corner of your brain. The recently restored pipe organ at St Mark's (MG Road, Bangalore) with its huge flues and reeds almost a storey high each, is the only one in Bangalore that is in concert condition.

The organ accompaniment to Duruflé's requiem, a tough 20th century piece that we are performing this weekend, is melancholy, disconnected at times, and breathtakingly beautiful at others. When the organist pressed his foot tentatively down on a deep d, we all went silent for a couple of seconds, savouring the funny quiver that aimed itself exactly at the middle of our chests and set the entire requiem alight.

Practice was gruelling. The organist has his back to the conductor, and the music is tough as nails. We might have to resort to using the cathedral's fine electric organ- almost indiscernable to the untrained ear from the original, so that we can co-ordinate better. But I'm hoping against all hope that we might be able to use the living breathing goliath with some practice. To hear the wind rush in and out of its great throat as it sings to accompany us.

Modern classical music is free from the traditional mores of composition. Varying time signatures, crazy passages and bizzarely beautiful chords make it a treat to listen to, provided your mind is open to it. It is madness to perform, but completely worth the effort.

Here's what we're doing, among others:
Duruflé's Requiem - A haunting, sombre, yet tender modern requiem by Maurice Duruflé, a famous French composer.
Agnus Dei - by Samuel Barber, originally an adagio for strings, re-written for voice and organ. You might have heard the strings version in the movie Platoon.
Rejoice in the Lamb - A modern composition by Benjamin Britten, a brilliant English composer, set to lyrics written by Christopher Smart, a delightfully mad 18th century poet, who actually wrote from a lunatic asylum.

How exactly a monsoon audience on a plateau in South India is going to react to it remains to be seen :) If youd like to react too, stroll over to St marks Cathedral, MG Road Bangalore, on Saturday 22nd Sep at 6:45pm for an evening of contemporary sacred music accompanied by the beautiful organ at St Marks.

It's in a church, and it's free, so be nice :)

12 comments:

Spunky Monkey said...

Wow! Western Classical Music!
I have always wanted to learn to sing/play in that form. Got stuck with only Carnatic/Hindustani (not that they are bad). But whattodo, the Bangalore School of Music is freakishly expensive.
Will try and come for the performance. If a post about it is as nice, the performance is bound to be better.

Preeth said...

Damn!!! I am not there.But shall ask few of my friends who'd otherwise sit listening to the same old Richie Valens version of Tequila at Java City(few locks away) to come over and listen. Btw, will coffee and rum cake be served?

Anonymous said...

BikerDude:
You always strike the right chord with me. First it was the post on Frazer Town, Benson Town and then Malleswaram and now St Marks'Cathedral. BTW - Did you follow me around unbeknownst to me? Man, you know all the right places in namma Bengaluru. As they so often say in Bollywood “You Rock Dude”.

Thanks to you I am now a clinically diagnosed addict of the blogs mentioned in your blog roll. I have a few words for you at Preeth’s (under “Nice Place...”) and Blah. Burpp (under Meenakshi’s – “You are…”). And you needn’t menshun -- Youu arre Welcuum. ~ Maria.

Bikerdude said...

spunky monkey : Thanks! Learn off I say, whats there. The BSM isnt the only western music school around. Try the St marks school of music, Reynold's school or the many other private piano/voylen teachers dotting the cantonment :)

Preeth : Aiyo papa why kill them with modern music men? But true, its bitti concert so no loss. I believe theres bitti tea (bit-tea?) being served as well.
PS: Please tell me the name of that old as the hills sax player in Java City. I'm sure he's powered by a cycle pump hidden in the back.

Bikerdude said...

Maria- Thumba thyanks ri :)

I love Lucy said...

Western classical and all huh..fullll !!!

Good luck for the concert!Looking forward to reading all about it :)

Thoppai mama said...

All the besht ri!

Aen haarystheev andra nim gumpu St. Pauls melbourne naag nudisbaek anth.

Southern hemisphere-naag doddadh-est organ alle aithi.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Paul%27s_Cathedral%2C_Melbourne#T.C._Lewis_Organ

RustyNeurons said...

Wow! Concert in the city! Would love to attend, only thing - I have no clue what western classical music is! I mean, never heard one :( (okie, no stone pelting at me please)
One koschan - how is tambram boy doing all this thing? school influence?

Pri said...

ey baritonebadrinath wat happened to lisht? i came looking for lisht. i want lisht.

Bikerdude said...

I Love Lucy: Fullll anthe :p Thanks :)

Thoppe Mama: St Pauls nalli nam Kyatmaranhalli Choir na sersthara? Actually Allige hogi ond first class bhajane session madbodhu, yenantheeri? Jaya jaya vittala paanduranga antha. Maja baruthe, with the organ going guiiiiiin in the background.

Rusty: Dayavittu to be comings :)
As for the western music thing, I learnt carnatic exclusively until 7 years ago at which point I realized my musical perspective needed broadening. Maybe the x'ian school upbringing put the initial bee in my bonnet, but I'm glad for it nevertheless.

Pri: If you mean Lizst the pianist, Sorry no. If you mean ettanother lisht, please check email. Baritone Badrinath eh :)

sthitapragnya said...

Bigerdute saaru!! Bootiful selectionsu!! Louwelee, I say! Samuel Barber's 'Adagio for Strings' is a masterpiece. Stirring! Would your group care to perform in Hyd sometime? May be 'Gloomy Sunday' by Rezső Seress apart from the above?

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