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From the Desk of Nirupama Rao

Updated: Aug 13, 2022

From the desk of Nirupama Rao, Founder-Trustee of The South Asian Symphony Foundation

It’s been a little over a week (30th July, 2022) since we held the Peace Notes concert of the South Asian Symphony Orchestra (SASO) in Chennai. From all accounts it was a well-received concert. The audience was attentive and most appreciative. The South Asian Symphony Foundation partnered with the Radiant Foundation, Chennai to hold this concert and we gratefully acknowledge their generosity and the great support provided by the entire Radiant Team led by Col. (Retd) David Devasahayam and Dr. Renuka David.

Our chief guest was the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman whose gracious words of encouragement to SASO and the music we create, we value greatly.

The concert was held as part of the Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations of the 75th Anniversary of India’s Independence. Our thanks to the Ministry of Culture for making this possible.

Our conductor Alvin Arumugam worked with the utmost commitment and a passion for perfection that I believe inspired all in the Orchestra. Kudos to you, Alvin!

It was an amazing group of musicians, drawn from India, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand, New Zealand, Kazakhstan, the U.K and the United States. I call it our Indo-Pacific Orchestra. What is most encouraging and inspiring is that considering that we started literally from NOWHERE four years ago, today we have created an Orchestra whose musicians feel they belong with SASO and who believe in our mission to build peaceful harmonies through divine music. Everyday with SASO is a new scintillating step on our journey to create a platform of people who believe in the creative force of music and it’s ability to build bridges over divides and chasms. To ALL our musicians at SASO, many, many thanks for your belief in our mission. SASF struggles to organize these concerts, there are a lot of administrative arrangements that we must perfect - this is a constant, learning curve. Bear with us.

Besides Alvin, I’d like to give a shout-out to Raja Halder (UK) and Malavika Gopal (New Zealand) whose brilliance as violin leads spurred our orchestra to scale new heights. Bravo!

Priyanka Venkatesh (United States) mesmerised our audience with her virtuoso performance of Svara Yantra by the composer Shirish Korde. The tabla artiste Durairaj Chandrajith who accompanied Priyanka was brilliant!

Mezraq Ramli (United States) - our principal oboe player - you were magnificent!

To our youngest musician, the very promising Martina Charles of Thrissur, all of 14, I say Congrats ! You go, girl.

Young Amirtavarshini from Chennai wowed the audience with her flute solo in AR Rahman’s epic “Cry of the Rose” from Roja.

Nandhini Chari of Chennai rendered a faultless, pure and lilting rendition of “Maitreem Bhajata” as a curtain raiser.

The Madras Musical Association choir sang Rahman’s Chinna Chinna Aasai beautifully. Our grateful thanks to the Shillong Chamber Choir for letting us perform the score orchestrated by Neil Nongkynrih as the accompaniment. We dedicated the song to Neil’s memory.

Our principal cellist Meera Priyanka Raja (UK) was a wonderful new entrant to SASO!

To Meera Gudipati of the US Coast Guard who was flute principal - your excellence as a musician creates a wonderful example for the younger members of the orchestra, particularly.

Kartik Alan Jairimin (Singapore ) and Nivanthi Karunaratne (United States) - thank you for the swell of heralding sounds that your French horns created !

To our bassoon players from Thailand - Thattana and Sopida- you were great. Thanks so much. The bassoon is an instrument yet to be discovered -seriously speaking - here in India.

Our thanks to Mark Nunes, Averell de Souza, Mikhail Bulgakov, Onay Zhumabayeva, Meruyert Tursunbekova, Ruslan Galilov of the Symphony Orchestra of India for playing with us.

Augustine Paul of the Madras Musical Association was a solid pillar of support throughout. Thanks so much.

To our Sri Lankan players who played with us despite the great difficulties at home, thank you! And to our musicians from Nepal

and Bhutan also, our thanks!

A big thank you to Aditi Bharatee for tirelessly working behind the scenes to make sure glitches were ironed out! And to Venkatesh and Amol Paranjape for being there for the musicians!

Our program for the concert evening in Chennai is attached. So too, the coverage in The Hindu. And some photos of the event!

One of the hallmarks of SASO is that we try to include repertoire drawn from our region for every concert we play. We are gradually building up a nicely curated collection of music which is South Asian that I am sure will be of benefit to orchestras around the world in due course.

It’s a pity that this time around, we could not have musicians from Afghanistan. We were all set to welcome Amanullah Noori and Sevinch Arsalan, and all clearances were received from the Indian authorities for their entry into India. Unfortunately, both Aman and Sevinch are refugees in Portugal where they’ve been since they left Kabul after the Taliban takeover. There was no assurance that these players could travel outside Portugal and return there because they are refugees in that country now and their right to travel outside Portugal is therefore circumscribed by that fact. This was SASO’s loss indeed because we have had these wonderful Afghan musicians for both our previous concerts. Alas!

On a final note, bless you all!

Nirupama Rao

Photo credits: The Hindu


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