There seems to be no stopping this band from Shillong. The Shillong Chamber Choir, who shot into llimelight following their victory in India’s got Talent and winning the Forbes Person of the Year award 2010, conducted the world’s first personalised music concert in Mumbai recently. The group’s maiden concert in Mumbai set a benchmark by becoming the first personalised concert where audiences were offered to select songs of their preference for the choir to perform at the concert. Audiences could nominate their song preferences through http://www.facebook.com/liveindigo, http://www.twitter.com/lliveindigo.
Best described as eclectic, youthful, crossover music, the repertoire of the Shillong Chamber Choir includes works of western classical greats such as Handel, Bach, Gershwin and Mozart, besides popular genres of music such as rock, retro, Hindi crossover and Khasi folk songs.
The event in Mumbai was promoted by Indigo Live, a joint venture partnership between Bengaluru-based conglomerate Jupiter Media Ventures and Red Light Management and live music promotion companies, both committed to promoting live music in India through city concerts, club performances, destination festivals and creating concepts to promote world music in india.
Following its high run all over the country after their win in the India’s got talent reality show on television, the Shillong Chamber Choir is presently blazing across the international circuit with concerts lined up in places like Malaysia, etc. The choir had recently performed for US president Barack Obama.
More recently, the group released its debut collection of Christmas songs. Leader of Opposition, Conrad K Sangma, released the album. Speaking at the occasion, Sangma said: “As a citizen of Meghalaya, I feel extremely proud and happy to be associated with SCC. I think the way SCC has come up in recent months speaks about itself.” Choir member Damon M Lyndem told reporters in Shillong that they will gift the album to Barack Obama.
Citing an example about the extent to which SCC has promoted Meghalaya, Sangma said that when he was recently in Kolkata for a conference, he introduced himself from Shillong to which other members said: “Oh, you’re from Shillong! That’s the home of SCC!” Apprising of SCC’s stint in India’s Got Talent–2, Sangma said that his friends from Mumbai, who are members of parliament, told him that seeing the choir win the talent show made them feel like they had won an election. “I also share a similar passion for the SCC,” he said.
The Christmas album has been produced by choir member Damon Melam Lyndem. Lyndem, spokesperson of SCC, apprised those present on the journey of the SCC since the year 2001. He also reminded of the vision of the SCC – to start a home school for underprivileged children. Meanwhile, elder sister of choir’s conductor and mentor of SCC, Neil Nongkynrih, Pauline Warjri, said that music was the only language that connected everybody.
The music album is priced at Rs. 249 and will be available at all major shops in the city. The album will also be launched in New Delhi and Mumbai at a later date.The choir is currently in New Delhi, except for Damon, who is preparing for a corporate show in Malaysia by Mahindra.
While choir groups and Kishore Kumar’s popular song Chura liya he tumne may not exactly have a lot in common, in the hands of acclaimed concert pianist Neil Nongkynrih a blend of this evergreen Bollywood hit with songs of ABBA can surely bowl people over.And that’s exactly what happened when Neil and his famed Shillong Chamber Choir performed last week at the World Choir Championships at Bejing in China and created a record of sorts by winning three gold medals.
The World Choir Championships — also known as Choir Olympics — brings together choir groups from all over the world. While the Shillong Chamber Choir had to meet with dejection last year on account of the championships being cancelled due to the outbreak of bird flu, the group this time made a clear sweep of the entire games. The championship is divided into three categories – the first called ‘Musicasacra’, the second for ‘gospel and spiritual music’ while the third is devoted to experimental blend of music. Neil Nongkynrih and his group bagged the gold in all three categories this time, clearly outshining the delegates of the other countries who had assembled there.
Joining the family and group of well-wishers who had come to receive them at the Guwahati airport, I watched as the members of the Shillong Chamber Choir followed their guide Neil Nongkynrih with their heads held high, feeling comfortable and firm in their belief that their leader will help them scale new heights. “It’s yet to sink in,” Neil literally shouts with a grin on his face as I make my way past the crowd to him. Of course, that is perfectly understandable. After all, it is not always, just like it is not everybody, that one and his group is declared the best among representatives of as many as 82 countries, on this occasion totalling to a staggering number of 4,000 choir groups and 20,000 choral singers!
What makes the achievement of the Shillong Chamber Choir all the more special is the fact that this genre of music has very few practitioners, as also takers, in the country. “The last time this genre had come into focus was when a choir group based in the Southern city of Chennai had won some championship,” said Pauline Warjiri, a music educator in Shillong and also the director of Aroha choir. The Shillong Chamber Choir had last year also collaborated with the famed Vienna Orchestra for a couple of concerts in Shillong and Kolkata, a first time in the musical history of Shillong.
Formed in 2001 by acclaimed concert pianist Neil Nongkynrih, the Shillong Chamber Choir started off as a humble attempt to bring together some like-minded singers so as to produce a variety of music, rather than being limited to only one kind. The choir’s versatility reflects itself in the age of the members: while the youngest member is a 13-year old, the oldest is all of 27 years. The group’s debut performance saw 25 soloists assembling at Pinewood Hotel in Shillong on January 14 and 15, 2001 for the first performance of a chamber choir in that city, and the same was a resounding success. There has been no looking back for the choir and its members since then. Their repertoire now includes pieces from Handel, Bach, Gershwin, Mozart, Neil Nongkynrih’s compositions, Khasi folk songs as well as popular adaptations of Queen and ABBA. As Neil says, “We play all kinds of music; the sole criteria for selection of the music is its possession of positive vibrations, which uplifts one.”
Remembering the world choir championships, Ike Sinha, the manager of the choir group, tells me, “The news is yet to sink in. We are still educating the people about the enormity of our achievement.” The World Choir Olympics is organized by Inter-Kulture, based in Frankfut, Germany. Each group was allotted a time of 15 minutes in the time frame of which they had to perform four songs. The scores were then judged by a set panel of judges. “We are thankful to Inter-Kulture president Guentner Titsch, Indian coordinator Jelena Dannhacrer and Nirupama Roy for all their support,” Ike added.
Ike feels that the clear speech of Shillongites in general was a major factor in their victory. But Aubrey Scott Lyngdoh and Bill Richmond, whose support to the group has been enormous, feels otherwise. “Clear speech is of course a factor in point. But it is more of a commitment towards excellence and music and a lot of practice.” The members of the Shillong Chamber Choir put in around 6 to 7 hours of practice every day.