Hello from Sheffield! I'm thrilled to be back in the UK, this time for an entire month. It's a month filled with music: three world premieres for me (that's about an hour of new music!), an additional five concerts by our amazing Indian classical music team, and several more guest workshops & university lectures for new and old friends. And we're off to a rollicking start: here we are at the historic Marble Hall of Hatfield House with conductor Suzi Digby OBE and the Rt. Hon. Patricia Hewett, the leadership team of ORA Singers:
(from L to R: myself, conductor Suzi Digby OBE, my mother & veena virtuoso Nirmala Rajasekar, and the Rt. Hon. Patricia Hewett.
In the background is Hatfield House's famed portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, who looks grand!)
(Plus some tourist snaps - how could I resist?! Now the home of Lord and Lady Salisbury, Hatfield House is where Queen Elizabeth I spent her formative years. Mom and I, certified history geeks, were pretty awed when we walked into the green room and saw the portraits of all of Henry VIII's queens. What a gift to frolic across this historic estate! Er, I mean, walk stately. I most certainly did not step on the grass!)
At the Finale of the Hatfield House Chamber Festival, held in The Old Palace, we premiered Light Eternal for choir and veena by the ORA Singers (conducted by Suzi Digby OBE) and my mother, Vidushi Nirmala Rajasekar. And then we added mridangam by Vidwan Thanjavur K. Murugaboopathi into the piece (pretty much on the fly!), thanks to the flexibility and brilliance of all of the musicians. It was a fantastic performance by them - we can't wait to share the video with you.
Because our concert was on Gandhi Jayanti (October 2), festival founder and world-renowned cellist Guy Johnston very kindly gave me the opportunity to feature one of Gandhi Ji's favorite pieces, Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram. I arranged this for strings and our fabulous Indian classical ensemble (Vid. Nirmala Rajasekar on voice/veena, Vid. Thanjavur K. Murugaboopathi on mridangam). Our fantastic string orchestra were the Resident Musicians of the Festival and featured many players of the United Strings of Europe & Guy Johnston himself. This piece was gorgeously performed by these expert musicians. Here are two tiny clips I snuck during soundcheck (yes, yes, I was supposed to be watching the score, but I was too entranced by their artistry!):
And here we are before, during, and after the Light Eternal premiere, featuring sacred Sanskrit and English text:
(Dear Patricia, that is, the Rt. Hon Patricia Hewett, commissioned this piece and had the vision for its text and its connection with Indian spirituality. Ours is the first of Suzi Digby's Cultural Bridges project with ORA Singers, and we are honored to have launched the series)
Probably my favorite photo of the night: Nirmala Rajasekar and her beloved Saraswati veena
Then we were off to the next place. And now, after a magical week in Somerset filled with music, laughter, and love (below, get a glimpse of a Somerset sunset), we are in the North. My favorite part of the UK! (... well, it's my favorite as long as it stays as warm and sunny as it has been! Hehe).
Here in the North, there will be some lively & exciting Indian music concerts on October 12th at Kommune in Sheffield, and October 13th at Niamos in Manchester; the latter is alongside the awesome Urban Cellist - Gary Washington. Our great thanks to our dear friend of many years, Aaron Casserly Stewart (Aaron Uncle to me), for his vision for our Northern tour! I'll be visiting my favorite composition seminar ever on Oct 14th: that's at RNCM, of course, my old stomping grounds. After that, we head down South. I am sadly missing a community sing of Jayjaykar! on Sunday, October 16 in Goole, UK as I'm double-booked, but come long if you're anywhere in the Yorkshire vicinity!
October 17, we're with the fab London Youth Choirs, and from October 18, it's full-on rehearsals for Sarojini, my biggest project to-date. I can't quite believe we're actually approaching its world premiere. October 22, 2022 is a date that has lived in my head for a long, long time, and it is surreal that it is finally happening. The story of India's independence is not only a community one, but also a deeply personal one for me– it's the story of my and many others' families. I'm most grateful to have so many loved ones joining us in the audience (and on-stage!), including friends flying over from the United States for this premiere. Tickets are starting to move quite quickly; they can be acquired here: https://www.stalbanscathedral.org/event/hertfordshire-chorus-presents-karl-jenkins-the-armed-man-and-shruthi-rajasekar-sarojini
What, or rather who, is Sarojini, you ask? Here's a little introduction to the great Sarojini Naidu that I wrote at the start of my research for this piece, which was commissioned by Hertfordshire Chorus (director: David Temple MBE). The 45-minute work, with primary text by Sarojini Naidu & a few lines by me, is split into five movements:
Kalaakaar - The Artist
The Gift of India
The Real Nation-Builders
Swaraj - Self-Rule
The Dreams That Remain
And that is all I'll say for now... except that I'm vibrating with energy thinking about the premiere. Please come along if you're in the country! St. Albans is a ~25-minute Thameslink ride from Central London. And please do reserve tickets in advance—don't quote me on this, but I believe that as of today, something like 80% of the tickets have been sold.
After Sarojini, we have some lovely activities in London, including a session by our esteemed Indian classical artists at my beloved alma mater, SOAS University of London on Thursday, October 27. Then the Indian classical musicians are off to their next destination, and I fly off to mine.
And! Last but certainly NOT least! Amidst the Sarojini rehearsals, and 2 days before the big premiere, I have another one also very close to my heart: a new setting of the Da Pacem Domine presented by stellar vocal consort The Gesualdo Six. I start my setting on the words "quia non est alius" which means, "because there is no one else." These words are directed to God. Someday, I'll share where this intensely personal setting of mine stems from.
The premiere of Da Pacem Domine is on October 20 at Kings Place... yes, hardly 2 days before Saro! (That's my personal nickname for the great lady - I hope she wouldn't mind the familiarity). 7:30 PM, Kings Place.
We are lucky to have so much music in our lives - it carries us through the hard times. I'll sign off with this beautiful art display we saw in Bath Cathedral last week. It was a message really needed for us in our personal lives, and perhaps it will mean something personal to you, too:
Take care and be well,
P.S. We received this lovely and very sensitive review of October 2 from Planet Hugill: https://www.planethugill.com/2022/10/from-folk-inspired-music-to.html . Many thanks, Robert!