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Happiness of singing in a Choir

Kasturi Borkotoki

During the 80's and 90's choral singing was considered a mark of class. If your cultural function started with a chorus, it was considered important. Most of the songs were based on world peace, equality (of races) and patriotism. They were often sung by both men and women and formed opening pieces in cultural shows.

I too had my more than fair share of choral singing. My mother was a member of a ladies' group of singers from the University Campus, who competed in a state wise chorus competition. There would be this annual competition which took place in Rabindra Bhavan in Guwahati (which can be compared to the NCPA of Mumbai, in terms of prestige). I remember few of these clearly and the fun we as children had along with it. Songs written by late Dr. Nirmal Prabha Bordoloi, a well know writer, poet and litterateur (Sahitya Academy Awardee) of Assam was chosen with excellent music by a well-known musician from the University Campus, coming from a family of musicians. A home grown 'Beatles', each of the brothers were experts in a distinct musical instrument! One for composing music, singing and playing the violin, one for being a Tabla exponent (and other percussion instruments like the Congo etc.), one for the guitar and mandolin. The practice would mostly take place in their house or in the Guest House, and obviously the talented brothers were all the hands for the background music. We children would watch as they practised numerous times and also rehearsed positions and beginnings and endings with hand gestures (Namaskars). After that we would play or gossip. On the day of the final competition, we would all go together on a hired bus to Rabindra Bhavan along with interesting tiffin boxes. Needless to say, with the best of talents, the Chorus group had won prizes a few times.

I also participated in the All India Radio's chorus competition for children, again from the University Campus. We University kids prepared two songs, one Assamese and one in Hindi, for an All India Radio Chorus Competition, on an inter- state level. The practice sessions were gruelling and the presentation of the songs was complex. The starting, pauses and ending had to be in unison and even a small departure was caught by the radio recording. We would go for practice in the weekends and also some weekdays in the evenings. I would