A stirring voice that heals the soul

Music - Fauzia Marikar

  • Published 20.08.16


There is no better way to get anything done than to just get started - no preamble, just action. And that is how things began on July 8 at the South City International School concert for young children, with the pianist, Jennifer Heemstra, and the soprano, Chelsea Coyne. The musicians introduced the show with brief explanations of Western parallels to Bollywood and the use of singing and dancing, illustrated with songs from the The Sound of Music, Les Misérables and The Phantom of The Opera. There was the " Habanera" from Carmen, the " O Mio Babbino Caro" and the delightful "The Girl in 14G", among many others. The format was informative, interactive and tremendously enjoyable.

The musicians' charisma, energy and musicality captured a whole hall full of young people. The latter's familiarity with vocal classical music so far might have been sketchy, to say the least, but they were certainly familiar with the fare presented, which contained, among others, songs from the popular musicals, familiar to most, as well as pieces ranging from classical opera to modern musicals. There was interaction, enthusiastic applause, and awe at the sheer power, richness and range of Coyne's voice. The show was well choreographed and dramatically presented by the performers.

The Kolkata Classics Club, formed by Jennifer Heemstra, is a body of dedicated music lovers, interested in keeping alive the spirit of music in the city. They have brought a variety of the best instrumentalists and singers to share their talents with music lovers of all ages. The vision of the club is to bring the message of music as a language of communication and healing to audiences from all walks of life - the sophisticated and knowledgeable listeners, who formed the audience at the Park Hotel and the German Cultural Centre, the school-going children (at the South City International School) and the less privileged members of society (at the Health Fair during the Hathor series). They achieve this with great success, with these remarkable performers, who come to the city as true goodwill ambassadors, giving their time and talent, for no greater reward than a trip to our vibrant city and the opportunity to share and interact with its people through music.

In this concert, which is the most recent of the series, Coyne, with Heemstra at the piano, sang a programme of songs from the classical era of opera to the more recent Broadway musicals. Her voice, a rich soprano enhanced by her powerful dramatic interpretation, delighted the audience. Coyne's remarkable vocal range enabled her to come on stage at the German Cultural Centre with a spot-on, pitch perfect entry of " Un bel di vedremo" from Puccini's Madame Butterfly. Heemstra is as much a quintessential accompanist as she is a solo performer.

For the past few years, Coyne has performed almost exclusively at sea, and yet has found the time to sing in opera and musical theatre productions on shore. She has earned the name , 'Siren of the Sea'. The name is apt, given the seductive quality of her voice. However, it was not a rock in the middle of the ocean on which she sang to passing mariners, but on four stages in July - concerts at the South City International School, the Galaxy Room of the Park Hotel (a signature concert), the German Cultural Centre, and an exciting presentation at the Health Fair at Uttam Mancha, stirring the soul and healing the body through music.

It would be wonderful if more schools came forward with invitations to host concerts in educational venues. Children would certainly gain from such exposure to world music. The next presentation will be in September, and one looks forward to it.