The idea was to spring a surprise. And surprise they did.
So what exactly happened when Zubin Mehta, world renowned conductor of Western classical music, was serenaded by the Shillong Chamber Choir (SCC) along with children from the Mehli Mehta Music Foundation (MMMF), as part of his 80th birthday celebrations in Mumbai on Tuesday?
“Well, it was a surprise for him," says William Richmond, soloist, SCC. “We received a standing ovation when we performed the birthday piece especially for him."
The piece was Neil Nongkynrih’s interpretation of the birthday song. “It was extremely moving for us to see the power houses of world music receive our renditions so well,” says William, of the concert that was a precursor to Mehta’s birthday celebrations.
Along with Mehta, also present at the concert was Andrea Bocelli, world renowned Italian classical crossover tenor, recording artist and singer-songwriter. While Neil was on the piano throughout the concert handling the subtle nuances of music along with members of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, it was the young Ibarisha Lyngdoh, soloist, SCC, who conducted the orchestra for three pieces during the concert.
“We performed ‘dha-da-dhina’, a complex piece with tabla, piano and the orchestra along with the children from MMMF. This had been composed by Uncle Neil for our earlier concert with Ustad Zakir Hussain," says William.
Mehroo B Jeejeebhoy, the founder trustee of MMMF had heard the SCC perform the same piece at a concert for Rahul Bose’s Foundation, at a fund raising event. She wanted Neil to teach this piece to the children at MMMF. “But Uncle Neil was apprehensive because it was a complex piece — something that would have been difficult for the children to learn. But when he heard these children sing, he decided to teach them. They were so good!" says William.
The piece ended to ringing applause from the audience, he says.
An instrumental ensemble was later performed by the children from MMMF.