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The Menon minstrels
When the curtains went up at the Hungarian Cultural Centre on Monday evening, the audience was surprised to see Anjolie Ela Menon as part of a choir by the Capital City Minstrels. Experimentation has been the name of the game for the celebrated artist - in her almost 60-year-old career, she's "loved doing new things" - be it kitsch or digital painting. "The thought of working with new ideas, materials and forms is always exciting, " says the attractive 70-plus artist. "There's always room ahead for something different. "
It was this zest for "pursuing something new" that made her agree to be part of the choir. "It was actually my husband Raja who suggested we join a choir. It started on a whim but as time went by, we became serious about not just attending the Wednesday sessions but even practicing at home, " she says. The group was given CDs, and Menon, while painting in her studio, would sing along and practice.
Choral singing was something that the Menons have got back to after a good 60 years. "We went to the same school - The Lawerence School in Lovedale in the Nilgiris. That's when a lovely comic opera called The Mikado was organised, " says the aritst. While she sang in the opera, her husband played the flute and the piccolo (a half-size flute) in the orchestra. "I too played the piano till my intermediate and hence learnt to read music too. But once I left school, I got so involved in art that music took a complete backseat and was soon forgotten. " She's glad to be able to read music once again.
In January this year, when the two septugenarians decided to be part of Minstrels choir, their children weren't surprised. "They're used to us doing different things, " laughs Menon. But she confesses to feeling "pretty daunted by the decision because everyone around seemed so good and professional". And to make matters worse "there was this very fierce-looking German lady who told me I was completely besura (singing off key)", she laughs loudly.
Despite being sure she'd "get kicked out halfway through the session", Menon persisted with her practice sessions. "Both my husband and I would be there without fail. Actually, we both enjoyed being part of a choir (once again). " But she gives the credit for the success of the Summer Choir show to its Delhibased German conductor, Carolin Remy, "who managed to take this strange bunch of about 70 people in the age-group of around 16 years to those in their 70s and made them sing". The repertoire included early sacred music, Mozart and some gospel rock. "So, it's quite an interesting range that we're attempting, " says Menon.
The fact that it was a success was evident from the standing ovation the choir received. "What made it particularly interesting was the fact that I was there as a singer - (laughs) but please, I'm no great singer, I'm good in a choir. Never at parties - heaven forbid! There, no one knew that I was an artist. We were all there as a group, doing our bit was fun. But more than anything, getting back to something we did 60 years ago was even great. ".
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