This article was kindly submitted by Savio Mathews. Picture Credit: Sharad Raval
A rainy Sunday afternoon and overcast skies with a warning of further showers greeted patrons and friends of the Bhavan as they made their way into the warm confines of the building.
A bustling reception area with a brightly lit Christmas tree welcomed guests to the event. The converted Chapel which serves as the main performance hall for the Bhavan and its soaring wooden frame dome was the venue for this years Christmas performance.
The event began with a traditional Indian prayer invocation led by Dr. Nandakumara, the Executive Director of the Bhavan.
Choristers, from a tiny 6-year-old to Diploma level students of the arts and dances filed on to the stage. Led by the choirmaster James Marr and accompanied by Anna- Maria Raffa, the choristers’ voices soared over the assembled spectators. A compendium of traditional carols set to French, Polish and Spanish tunes filled the hall.
Starting off with the merry ‘Ding Dong Merrily on High’ and moving through the ‘Angel Carol’ and ‘Part of a Heavenly Plan’ on to the classic ‘Silent Night’ and ending with the uplifting ‘Torches’ the choir set the tone for the afternoon.
Cllr Clare Apel, the Liberal Democrat Group Leader from Chichester delivered this years Christmas message. She spoke about the uplifting significance of Christmas and Hannukah, both celebrated in December and the hope they signify to Christians and Jews across the world.
Speaking about the troubles in our world today she spoke about her own family history and the lives they lost during the Holocaust. She shared her belief in the reaffirming capacity of humanity that allowed her family who came to the U.K. as refugees and herself to rise to the place she has now achieved. She shared her message of hope and reminded participants of the goodness of humanity that confronts and overcomes the troubles of our day.
Next up were the Kathak students under the new teachers Dhiya Arora and Deepika Khatrani with a mesmerising performance on Tarana ‘Tarangini’. The fluid footwork of the dancers and the upbeat music pulsing through the hall made the performance an entrancing watch.
Students under the tutelage of Katrina Rute came up next with an Odissi dance performance set to the traditional ‘Bottu’. The colourful attire, graceful dance steps and the superior performance had the spectators in thrall.
Last on stage were the Bharatnatyam students of Shri Prakash Yadagudde. This was also the first live stage performance for some of these students. They performed the ‘Pushpanjali’ a traditional dance arrangement set to Karnatic music.
The vote of thanks was given by Padmashree Dr John Marr who summed up the Christmas spirit and the ethos of the Bhavan in celebrating the festival of hope and joy in a truly multi-cultural manner. He spoke about how Christmas Carols at the Bhavan had evolved from an ad-hoc arrangement to a much anticipated annual event under the professional leadership of James Marr. He also reiterated the message of hope and humanity in these difficult times and the role of Christmas and Hannukah reminding us of this hope and promise.
The Bhavan offers over 23 courses in various Indian arts with dedicated teachers and classes on weekdays and weekends to accommodate a range of students. The courses on offer include Dance (Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Odissi, Kuchipuid), Vocal Music (Bengali, Hindustani and Karnatic), Instrumental Music (Sitar, Veena, Karnatic Violin, Tabla, Flute, Mridangam ), Languages(Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil, Bengali and Sanskrit), Drama and Yoga.
With over a hundred performances and events a year and a dedicated art gallery the Bhavan offers an opportunity for everyone to study and learn various aspects of Indian art. Some of the illustrious performances here have included Pt. Ravishankar, Dr. M. Balamurali Krishna, Hariprasad Chaurasia and the Gundecha brothers.