Pune, July 14: Starting as a carol singing troupe in Chennai 22 years ago, performing choir Stop-Gaps is the only Indian participant at the Choir Olympics, which will be held in the German town of Bremen in July 2004. The international congregation, a competitive festival held every two years since 2000, will feature 350 choirs from 72 countries across the world. Stop-Gaps has entered into this Olympics in 3 categories:
(1) Mixed Chamber Choirs,
(2) Popular Choir Music; and
(3) Scenic Folklore
The 30-member choir comprising singers between 16 and 60 years, is one of the few choirs in the world which can sing British rock band Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, R.D. Burman’s Chura Liya and Ave Maria with equal elan. Stop-Gaps conductor and founder Alfred D’souza said that they will perform 12 pieces in Bremen in the folklore, popular and mixed ensemble categories. “Looking at the troupe’s confidence, I wish we had enrolled for the religious category too,” he said.
He added that besides the Queen number, they will be performing a combination of different Broadway hits, Golden Age of Broadway, Tequila Samba and Name That Tune. Indian compositions will include Vanraj Bhatia’s Varsha, Randall Thompson’s Noise Of The Multitude, Victor Paranjyothi’s Konkan Pastora and Dravidian Dithyramb, along with And I Have Spun, a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi and Festive Dandia Rap, composed by Mr. D’Souza himself.
Talking about the melange of sacred and secular music, Mr. D’Souza said the aim of the Stop-Gaps was to indulge in different schools of music, without reservations.
“We all love singing and our objective has been not to confine ourselves to any particular religious group, caste or creed. So we have Parsis, Hindus, Muslims, along with Christians. We want to break the myth that choirs are just about Church music,” he said.
However, participating at the Choir Olympics is not their high point. While for Ms. Jennifer D’Souza, who has been a member for 18 years, singing “Happy Birthday” for Pope John Paul II at St. Peter’s Square in 1998 is the most memorable moment, for Mr. D’Souza it was the singing of “Silent Night” at Bethlehem on Christmas night of the same year.
Mr. D’Souza said that the choir was started along with some friends in December 1982 after a flood hit a washer folk’s village in Chennai. “We planned to raise money for them by singing Christmas carols. Later we continued with it. Now we have our eyes on the victory stand at Bremen,” he added.
Joining the Stop-Gaps Choral Ensemble from Pune for the above event are:
FR. VINCENT D’SOUZA: Born in Kirem and known as “Kiryanthli Kogull” now belongs to the Diocese of Ahmedabad. He has dedicated himself to the cause of music. He is in Pune for training himself in music and voice. Also trains children on the drums, organ, violin, guitar, flute, etc. A Bass singer trained in Western classical instruments, he is a Choir Master at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Pune.
RYAN SEQUEIRA: Born in Pune is the son of Archie Sequeira (‘Inslodge’, Kankanady, Mangalore) now Pune, and Freeda Sequeira (nee D’Sa) born at Valencia, Mangalore and brought up in Pune.
Ryan is part of the “Ensemble” of the St. Cecilia’s School of Music. He is trained to play the Piano - Western classical, trumpet (as part of the Brass Band of St. Vincent’s High School conducted by Mr. Trevor Martin). He has also successfully completed Grade 8 of Speech & Drama examination and Grade 5 of Piano conducted by the Trinity College London. He acted in the musical opera “King & I”. He has undergone voice training and is a Bass singer. Ryan is aspiring to be an Architect and as he would have to appear for the MH-CET-ARCH exam on July 11th, he would be joining the troupe on July 12 at Bremen.
ADRIAN MENDONCA: Having passed Std. XII has appeared for CET to join Sound Engineering. He plays Piano – Western classical, drums, guitar & trumpet. Is part of the Brass band of St. Vincent’s High School conducted by Mr. Trevor Martin. He acted in the musical opera “King & I”.
By: Archie Sequeira, Pune