Friday, March 1, 2024

Harmony of hope

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Glenn C Kharkongor recounts a concert for Bethany Society

 A JAZZ pianist, some of Shillong’s best bands and the talented and differently-abled singers and dancers from Jyoti Sroat School provided a fragrant potpourri of a musical evening. The sell-out crowd had the rare privilege of experiencing an evening of lilting music with touches of emotion that truly was a Harmony of Hope, the theme of the concert. 

     Carmo Noronha, executive director of Bethany Society welcomed the gathering and explained the purpose of the concert. He thanked the sponsors and the special guests of the evening, which included Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, Home Minister Roshan Warjri and Urban Affairs Minister Ampareen Lyngdoh.

     The featured performer was Cesare Picco, an Italian pianist who has performed all over the world. He has composed music for ballet, theatre and opera. In a short speech that preceded his performance, he described his joyful emotions in spending a day with the children of Jyoti Sroat School (Within hours of this experience, his Facebook page had pictures of him playing with the children). He talked about his childhood, learning to play the piano before he learned to speak. As a young child he spent most of his waking hours in his ‘room’, the space under the grand piano where he played with his toys, ate his meals and had his naps. From his early years, his life revolved around the piano.

     The concert began at 6 pm. But by the time the opening acts were done and all the speeches were said, it was almost eight o’clock before Cesare Picco took his place at the piano. He started with “Hope at Sunrise”, a piece for piano and cello, dedicated to the victims of the 11 March 2011 tsunami victims in Japan. For about 45 minutes he played from the repertoire of his own compositions. His unique genre is a combination of improvised classical music with deft touches of jazz. 

     In a mesmerizing performance, he unleashed piece upon gorgeous piece upon the appreciative audience. From subtle and soft tones to powerful fortissimo chords, it was a display of magical virtuosity. In some passages, his fingers moved in a blur over the keyboard, drawing spontaneous bursts of applause from the audience. With each piece, the audience was instinctively drawn into the intensity of the compositions. You could close your eyes and be carried away by the cascading tides of evocative notes. An especially poignant piece was “My Room”, a tribute to his childhood space under the grand piano. He ended the evening with his version of Hey Jude that had the audience singing along and ending up on their feet in a standing ovation.

     The first half of the evening featured renditions from the rock band, choir and dance groups of Bethany Society, and the well-known bands, Na Rympei, Fourth Element and the Aroha Choir. The concert was sponsored by the Christoffel Blinden Mission, Germany and India. This concert raised funds for the education of young people with disability. Bertha Dkhar, the headmistress of Jyoti Sroat School offered the vote of thanks.

     Jyoti Sroat is an inclusive school from pre-school to Class 10 with a special focus on students with visual impairment. The majority of students have a physical disability. It is a centre for the promotion of Braille and supports a BEd program in special education. Bethany Society supports about 250 young people with disabilities in formal and non-formal educational and livelihood programs in Shillong and Tura.

     The society emphasizes a priority of inclusion as a strategy for mainstreaming disability and works with over 1,200 persons with disability and their families in 600 villages in the state and elsewhere in the Northeast enabling them to access educational, health, livelihood, social and empowerment programs of the government. It has organized SHGs of persons with disability and made available micro-credit to persons with disability for livelihood initiatives. It has established an Orthopaedic Rehabilitation Centre at Tura. Bethany Society is helping more than 500 BPL senior citizens of the West Garo Hills District of Meghalaya to avail of various government social welfare schemes and is collaborating with the Tura Municipal Board to design a sanitation program for over a thousand families.

     According to the program brochure for the concert, a donation of Rs 400 a month will pay for the educational needs of a disabled child. For details you may write to [email protected].

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