Elton John and Michael Jackson may have given Calcutta the miss, but their music will not, thanks to the Dr Graham’s Homes choir. This Saturday evening, the school, home to around 800 under-privileged kids, is hosting a musical gala to raise funds.
Around 50 students from the Kalimpong home will be the stars at The Children’s City in Concert, at CC&FC. The choir, which includes students from India, Nepal and Bhutan, has just returned from a tour of Delhi.
The line-up for December 7 includes Elton John’s Circle of Life and El Dorado, Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat Song, Fallen by Alicia Keys, When you say nothing at all by Boyzone, Son of Man by Phil Collins, and songs from Joseph & His Technicolour Dream Coat, an Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical. A few Hindi songs, like A.R. Rahman’s Maa Tujhe Salaam, have also been included this year.
The choir, which performed for the first time in Calcutta last year, had been invited to Delhi by one of the school’s benefactors. The three-concert visit in October included stops at the British High Commission, the Maurya Sheraton and the YMCA. The “professional young group” consists of 49 students, between seven and 20.
There is an additional act, appearing for the first time this year, from the Gandhi Ashram. Children from the bustees of Kalimpong, who receive training in western classical music at the Ashram and an education at the Homes, will also present a selection from their repertoire.
The inspiration for the choir, Simon, a young Englishman who had spent five years at the Homes as their music teacher, has also returned, on hearing of the concert. “Simon had come for a year after school to help out, then returned to Cambridge to finish his studies, before coming back to teach in Kalimpong,” says M.J. Robertson, president and chairperson of the Homes. Simon is now helping the kids rehearse in the city.
At the Homes, known as The Children’s City, kids from ‘deprived’ backgrounds, including orphans and those from single-parent families, are taken in. Currently, there are 750 boarders, who stay in cottages with ‘house-parents’.
“We never question where the kids come from… We take them in, and then worry about the funding,” adds Robertson. The kids, many of whom are supported through college, have sponsors in seven countries — India, Japan, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Switzerland.