Song for all seasons

Concert going audiences across this country, it can be safely concluded now, are alike. They can be identified explicitly by their body language. Something in their eyes, their gait, their stance speaks of their discernment. They may not walk straight, or walk at all, they may speak their strange dialects, they may squint despite bottle thick spectacles or stoop from being a genetically mad race, but they all know their ‘shit’.

If they have come especially for the concert, they’ll most definitely be at the very least jacketed or cocktail dressed, flannel trousered or silk stoled. If they have reading glasses, they will be tipped low on the bridges of their noses to read the evening’s programme. They will look for seats farthest from the exits and respect each movement with appropriate applause.

Even pre-performance drone will be in hushed whispers, not cacophonic banter, they will discuss common acquaintances too, but it all stems from a musical reference on the menu. Their next choice, if they’re young, will be jazz or opera. Somehow, Rahul Khanna’s Kabir in Wake Up Sid was highly reminiscent of this profile (of which I stole some snatches last evening with Anjie).

I was at a soprano performance on Saturday when these thoughts intermingled with my sense of gratitude to Aditya for probing me into making it even on my own (much like my good old MA-in-Hyderabad days) came visiting with soul-stirring music for background. Of course, Aditya as well as Veeram were of the opinion that I should have stuck to just enjoying my privilege. But perhaps it was a bigger kick for me to know that I could write with such superior music in the background. Sometimes the focal point of an event makes for stimulating background for another concurrent activity.

Patricia Rozario, Joanne D’Mello and Susanna Hurrel were accompanied by Mark Troop on the piano, bringing songs composed by Handel, Mozart, Bizet, Dvorak, Puccini, Johann Strauss II and more to my ears. More than the music, though, it was a bringing to fore of emotions from history like I may never know. These sopranos sing as if they express in song. The way you and I may animatedly describe our favourite books or films, or weep in excruciating melancholy or even scream in menacing rage.

And in the classical tradition of students carrying their teachers’ legacy a notch higher in quality, Joanne and Susanna carried forward what teacher Patricia probably taught them to toil after. The matronly Rosario on the other hand is no dull wad. Here’s a weathered voice rippling with experience not only of men, and the world, but also of being drenched in her own emotions, prodding all those who will listen or care, or both, to take that risk around the blind bend.

And Mark Troop’s piano work on the Bluthner brought back an old fantasy. Sometimes I imagined being in company of a pianist. One who knew what to do with his lambs and not stand around like a dandy. Nimble fingers, quick on feet. Always a tune on his notes stand, forever ready to break into a number. I recently realized pianists can be of the soul as well. Slender hands and lithe palms trace their way even in the most velvet darkness, a song that is meant only for me. Just like Saturday night.

What shall I say about the songs themselves? From the show, I mean. Mentioning each one would mean nothing. I’m an illiterate. But let it suffice to say that each one was sung with a certain abandonment of inhibition of the beholder: a flamboyance that was meant to be felt, rather than witnessed. The experience of so many travails, practicing in so many halls, trials in so many green rooms and post-performance cuisines from a hundred backstage dinners came through in the level of confidence each performance exuded.

After what also seems like an eternity of the commencement of my quest for the perfect live performance. Mazda Hall in the Dastur School compound seems to have presented itself as the prize for all the years of waiting, struggling through commutes, risking late nights, suffering some atrocious fusions and even more irksome pure forms, and worst of all, tolerating the most ill mannered and uninformed audiences in Hyderabad and Mumbai.

As I stood on the lawns outside the hall under an ominously beaming moon, I awaited the opening of the second part before leaving the delightful show. Yes, show. The women didn’t just sing, they enacted each song to the hilt. They became the song. They became Cleopatra, Juliet, queen and pauper…

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