Choir groups talk about how they prepare for the festive season and the joy of carolling
In December, as the winter chill sets in and trees are decked up, a familiar sound can often be heard: the chorus of carols. It wouldn’t feel like Christmas without choirs singing Silent Night or 12 Days of Christmas. Over the past few months, choir groups across India have been preparing for the festive season, some writing their own songs and others celebrating the familiar.
Delhi-based choir group Capital City Minstrels (CCM) started their preparations in August for the three performances they had last weekend. “One of our themes was nostalgic Christmas. We wanted people to experience the same emotions they feel when they watch Christmas films. So, for our performances, we chose a mishmash of carols and songs from popular films that people can easily sing along to like Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You,” Shorbori, a member of the choir, tells Lounge.
Bengaluru-based The Harmony Chorus, led by Sandra Oberoi, rang in the season with a series of concerts across the city and the country, including one at the Royal Opera House in Mumbai on 20 December. “The centrepiece was the A Ceremony of Carols, a series of 11 songs sung in old English. We also sang composer John Rutter’s Shepherd’s Pipe Carol, which brings a contemporary classical feel. These are all different from people’s understanding of carols,” Oberoi says. The choir group, made up of singers aged between five and 20 years, also included familiar carols such as O Holy Night to get people to sing with them.
In Chennai, St. Thomas Orthodox Cathedral’s choir has been writing their own carols for decades. “It’s a long tradition of the choir writing different songs for us to perform. We perform at different churches and also go carolling to people’s homes across the city,” says Asha Elizabeth George, secretary of the choir group.
As a tradition that’s synonymous with Christmas, carolling is not just about the music but is more about bringing the community together, George says. Music is “transcendental as people of different backgrounds go caroling together and that’s a beautiful experience”, she says.
Shorbori concurs but has more to add, saying carolling is part of setting the mood for Christmas. “You are the harbinger of Christmas. In our performances, we include songs that tell the story of Christmas so it’s like you are introducing the season through these carols. In that sense, carolling is a mix of music as well as storytelling. Carols like It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas literally describe what the season is looking like,” she explains.
While choir groups may no longer go door-to-door, most of them perform at community singing events where people sing together. The Harmony Chorus will be taking part in a community singing event on 22 December at the Indian Music Experience Museum in Bengaluru. “There is a joy in carolling that everyone feels. It’s a unique experience,” Oberoi says.