| Dr Graham's Homes choir rehearses for the CC&FC night. Picture by Aranya Sen
They make music special beyond its melody; special, because the beat comes from the heart. It is no surprise that the Dr Graham’s Homes choir is spreading the wings of harmony far beyond its Kalimpong roots.
The CC&FC grounds rang out with the songs of around 50 young students of the Homes on Saturday, with The Children’s City in Concert. Conducted by primary school teacher and ex-student Shane Saviel, what used to be a chapel choir demonstrated its diversity before an enthralled crowd, there to support a cause, there for the love of music.
The evening started off with Sunita Kumar unveiling a painting she has donated to the Homes to use on Christmas cards this year. A short film on the Homes, with music and voiceover by the students, was screened. Then, it was straight on to the music.
Kicking off with Circle of Life, the Elton John song from the Lion King soundtrack, the boys and girls demonstrated their prowess with harmony, supported by a synthesiser and guitar, the latter also being played by Shane. One young girl, Tshering Penzom, beautifully sang the Grammy-winning Fallen, by Alicia Keys. Her solo performance was as stirring as the joyous Oh! Happy Day that had everyone clapping.
The choir — members and even the conductor of which have had no formal training in music — has just come back from a tour of Delhi, where it performed at the British High Commission, the Maurya Sheraton and the YMCA. But no where was the audience as large and appreciative as on Saturday. “In Calcutta, people know their music much better than anywhere else,” smiled three of the gang, Ugyen, Trina and Chetna.
The children have been practising every morning at the Birkmyre Hostel on Middleton Row. Though their holidays are on, for these kids, this is the good life. “Everyone at our school loves music… I have always wanted to be a part of the choir,” explained Chetna on Friday.
Not only do these talented children have the chance to sing and perform through the choir, but it is also the platform for them to gain confidence in their own abilities.
While the group is decades old, it was revitalised a few years ago, with the help of a British student who came down to Kalimpong for a few months. Simon Mainwaring taught them chapel music, but, more importantly, gave the children a chance to shine. Returning to Oxford to complete a degree in psychology, he was back in 1997, and stayed on till end 2000, teaching the children, amongst other things, music.
After Simon left, Shane took over. “I can’t read or write music, so I listen to the pieces over and over again before I teach the kids,” said the Class V teacher. Some of the students in the choir have learnt the ropes under both teachers. And they love them both.
For Simon, who paid a couple of visits to Kalimpong in the past two years, Saturday was an emotional experience. “I feel like I am watching my grandchildren on stage,” he laughed. But without the thrill of being on stage with Shane and his troupe, it just wasn’t the same.
The greenery and the peace are the two greatest attractions of the military zone in Barrackpore. Close to the banks of the Hooghly and with memories of the Sepoy Mutiny still lingering there, one walks into living history as one enters this zone with its monuments and clean pathways lined with huge, ancient trees.
The Army KG School, Barrackpore, nestled amidst this sylvan surrounding, can boast of something few better-known schools can — it gives the toddlers a feel of the great outdoors. That is a rarity in these days of schools with kerchief-sized playfields.
This novelty is complemented by a dedicated staff which has unshaken faith in activity-based learning. This school, open to civilians, used to be a part of the Army School. For about five years now, the kindergarten has become a separate entity. From nursery to upper KG, children study for three years here, before passing on to the senior school.
Its curriculum became more structured after the present prinicpal, Rani Hermon, joined about one-and-a-half years ago. She along with her consultant Sonia Relia try to offer the children a stress-free and activity-based environment where they are emotionally secure and active “visually, acoustically, mentally and physically”, to quote Relia.
The lessons they are taught in their single-storey classrooms brightly painted with pictures of popular toon characters, are balanced with regular periods every day meant for drawing and painting and various sport in the large playground.
The base is Montessori but it is modified to suit the CBSE curriculum. Everything the toddlers are taught is related to activity. Audio-visual aids and inexpensive materials, such as coloured paper, are used extensively. For example, the children play games with containers to learn about volume. This way they also become aware of science, says Hermon.
The little learners are also engaged in pre-writing activity such as pasting, drawing and mud-tracing. The school has a special consultant on activity and workshops are held almost every month so that they keep in touch with whatever is happening. In keeping with the strict army regimen, the greatest stress is on discipline and punctuality. You have to “Be the best” here.
The recently-formed Interact Club of St Joseph’s College organised a prom, Interactionz ’02. DJ Anil of Tantra played the latest chartbusters and students conducted games like Truth or Dare and Couple Matching.
The club also donated Rs 10,000 to Manoj Ghosh, the headmaster of Chandernagore High School, who has never missed a single day of school despite being afflicted with polio.
— Akshay Jain,
Class IX, St Joseph’s College
For a taste of fusion, drop in at Planet M on December 21. Black Coffee, an informal group of young musicians and artistes working to “free the arts”, will perform, 6 pm onwards. The line-up includes Mayookh Bhaumik on the tabla and percussion, Ryan Shah on drums and percussion and Prabuddha Bannerjee on the guitar. Check out their experimental mouth music and Carnatic/Afro-Cuban fusion and other innovative styles.
Goenka College celebrated its 98th foundation day with a variety of events put up by students and teachers. The celebrations kicked off on November 26, with the second-year students of the dramatics forum of the college staging a Bengali play called Baroh Bhoot. Quiz, extempore speech and solo recitals were also lined up.
On the formal foundation day, November 27, a debate on whether higher education should be privatised was held. This was followed by a speech by Dr Asthir Dasgupta, our principal. Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission Mukul Gopal Mukhopadhyay delivered the Founder’s Day lecture on new developments in human rights.
— Rahul Srivastava,
Pro-vice president, students’ union, Goenka College