Delhi-based Capital City Minstrels Choir

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Music is a great unifier. Even a quiet melody has the power to thrill people of different communities, nationalities, ethnicities and age groups to its rhythm. But it’s the choir that embodies this idea of ​​unity like no other – a collection of singers from diverse backgrounds and equally varied voices that come together to create the perfect symphony.

“Choir music is very different from solo singing. In choral music, you kind of have to agree that you’re going to work together,” says Sharmila B Livingston, conductor of the Delhi-based Capital City Minstrels (CCM) choir, adding, “People learn that they have a voice because every voice counts in a choir every voice is important. Since one voice does not stand out from the others, there is a sense of respect and a sense of learning to work in harmony.

The nearly three-decade-old group keeps choral music alive, the audience for which, unlike many other musical traditions, is growing. According to Sharmila, when the CCM started in 1994, its only clients were expatriates and diplomats in Delhi. “There wasn’t a very large audience for choral music at the time. We had a lot of expatriates and diplomats who participated in these days because they were used to this type of singing,” she says.

As we leaf through the history of the origin of choral music, we will discover that much of it is rooted in sacred music since most traditional Western choirs were affiliated with churches. Although the CCM is not associated with any religious organization, it played a lot of sacred music in the beginning. He also went beyond the genre to include Western classical pieces by iconic composers like Schubert and Mozart.

Sharmila, who joined the choir as a singer, in the beginning, shares that CCM members learned the intricacies of Western classical music from the choir’s founder and first conductor Zohra Shaw. The choir which started as a group of 10 has now grown to 70 members who come from a variety of professional backgrounds. Their only common love? Music.

“We had everyone, doctors, lawyers, teachers and students. There are also journalists, diplomats and varieties of every possible imaginable profession. They do what they do during the day, but the common thread is that they really love the music,” says Sharmila, adding that the choir meets every week for two hours for rehearsals. As the membership of the CCM grew, so did its audience, and over the years the choir consciously diversified its repertoire to meet the varied musical tastes of its listeners.

“At that time, we were making four pieces of music, from a large body of works by Schubert or Mozart. But as different conductors arrived and Delhi audiences started to like choral music, we started expanding our repertoire,” she says adding, “Now we are no longer limited to classical or sacred pieces; we do Jazz, Broadway, Pop and we even sing in different languages. Now that Delhi has grown to appreciate choral music, the public has grown both in number and in ability to appreciate our efforts. CCM, over the past two decades, has had conductors from Germany, France, Hungary, America, Korea, England, Russia and of course India.

During their recent performance at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, one of their first concerts after the pandemic, they sang Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and Ben E King’s “Stand by Me”, among others. In the pre-Covid world, CCM would host two concert seasons throughout the year – January to May and July to December respectively.

“This year, due to the uncertainty in January, we were unable to keep our regular schedule. So instead of two seasons, we only have one,” says Sharmila. The Capital City Minstrels will close their season this year with a concert at Delhi’s Kamani Auditorium in November.

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