Nothing quite symbolises Christmas like December nights drenched in the voices of carollers. For most Chennaiites, the open air carol concert organised by Madras Christian College alumni is what heralds in the festive season. In its 20th year, the two-day event that took place on December 10 and 11, drew in more than 3,000 people who tapped their feet, nodded their heads, clapped their hands and sometimes sang along with the choir.
“It’s the mood of the event that excites me the most,” laughs Dr Ravi Santosham, who started this event along with KM Mammen, chairman of MRF and president of the MCC Alumni Association. It had initially started off as a get together for past students. “Mammen suggested we do it in a style no one ever has. And so we did,” says Ravi, adding, “Everyone wanted to be a part of it, so we made the concert two days long. Now we are thinking of extending it to maybe three days.”
Eighteen choirs participated this year, including Madras Musical Association (MMA), MCC and Women’s Christian College (WCC) that have been part of it since its inception. The others were Octet Cantabile, Canticles, Bella Voce, ST Thomas Orthodox (they sang in Malayalam) and In His Service, among others. Other than crowd favourites such as ‘O Come Emmanuel’, ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘O Holy Night’, this year also saw a lot of choirs experimenting with lesser known songs. Making a comeback after seven years was Organized Chaos comprising Roshan Santosham, Ashish Ittyerah, Joseph George, and Pramod Alfred. From doing gospel rock, they are now a Barbershop quartet. “According to a meme online, Barbershop is the blackbelt of harmony,” laughs Roshan. They sang ‘Silver Bells’ and ‘Jingle Bell Rock’. “Earlier this year we posted a video on YouTube, and when the 100-year-old Barbershop Harmony Society (Nashville) posted it on their page, it was an encouragement,” says Roshan.
The city has quite a few choir groups like this one coming up. “There are at least 30,” says a visibly pleased Dr Ravi. With the numbers increasing, he says he often has to tell choir groups to sit out a year, and give newer ones a chance to perform.