East meets West in novel music initiative

November 24th, 2011 - 1:12 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 24 (IANS) Music is assimilating sounds from across the world to create a new language, says Grammy award winning Austrian musician and composer Gerald Wirth, who is in India to lead a classical music repertoire with 16-year-old musician Tara Venkatesan.

“There is great classical music going on in India. I mix elements from all traditions of music in my repertoire, including Indian ragas,” Wirth told IANS. The musician said he has been “inspired by the guru of sitar, Ravi Shankar”.

The Austrian composer is the artistic director of the Vienna Boys’ Choir, considered one of the best choral music ensembles with two Grammy awards for recordings of German composers Gustav Mahler and J.S. Bach’s symphonies.

Wirth is in the country to lead a classical music repertoire with Tara, a western classical vocalist and song-writer, for a fusion concert Nov 25. The two will be accompanied by violin maestros L. Subramaniam and Ambi Subramaniam.

The concert - part of a larger programme “The Soul of India” - is a tribute to the Tara’s grandfather, the late R. Venkataraman, former president of India.

“The repertoire will include a medley of songs by Tara, flute from Vienna, piano, western percussion and Indian classical music. Tara will sing a light classical track, ‘Benedictos’ by American composer Carl Jenkins,” Wirth said.

“I am accompanying her on the piano,” Wirth said at a practice session at Tara’s home in the capital.

The musician said he has been to India several times on concert tours and to work with sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, with whom he created the “Global Peace Concert for Children”, a cultural exchange project between India and Austria.

Wirth in a way has been instrumental in introducing Mozart to children in the capital. In 2006, he founded with Ravi Shankar the “Mozart Choir of India” at the behest of the Austrian Cultural Forum in the capital.

Currently working with native American Indians for a new musical album, Wirth will begin his forthcoming Indian-Austrian classical music project in spring.

“I usually collaborate with children in European classical music. European classical music strikes a chord in children all over the world because it combines emotion, music, harmony, melodies and rhythms…,” Wirth said.

He recommends “Mozart and Schubert for children”.

He has been tutoring Tara - a student of American School - since 2004 when she visited Vienna. And has been teaching her every year during her summer break.

“We met Tara through her parents. She came to our school in Vienna to sing for us and we liked her voice. The most important quality about Tara was her interest in music,” he said.

Tara, who has been singing since the age of five, was encouraged by her grandfather, R. Venkataraman, to pursue western classical music.

The 16-year-old has composed a tribute song, “Carry My Song” in memory of her grandfather, for the concert.

“My grandfather loved every genre of music and I was inspired by his values. My grandfather taught me that everyone has to strive to realise our goals,” Tara told IANS.

The teenager, who wants to specialise in Gregorian chants and explore the healing power of music, is experimenting with genres.

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