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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

Hitting the right note: A concert with a cause

As the crew of We Concert gears up for its sixth edition, we take a look at what’s makes it super special!

brunch Updated: Aug 24, 2018 21:20 IST
Mignonne Dsouza
Mignonne Dsouza
Hindustan Times
The We Concert rehearsals in full swing
The We Concert rehearsals in full swing

“Kids are more capable than you think.” That’s the message 17-year-old Mrinalini Somani is sending out as students from private schools across Mumbai partner with underprivileged children from the Salaam Bombay Foundation for the sixth edition of her brainchild, We Concert. The musical event, which brings together acts from 13 educational institutions like Ascend International School, Cathedral and John Connon School, and Oberoi International School, and dancers from Salaam Bombay’s Institute of the Arts, is set to be staged at the Royal Opera House, Mumbai, on Sunday, August 26.

Somani, who is studying at Sherborne Girls school, United Kingdom, and likes to answer to the name of Mrin, came up with the idea for this concert when she was a seventh grader at Cathedral and John Connon school in Mumbai.

So, was it difficult for a 12-year-old to convince the Salaam Bombay Foundation to hold a music concert of this stature? “Not really. They were very supportive since I’d been associated with them for a while,” says Somani.

Since then, she’s been super involved in organising the concert - from selecting the performers at auditions to organising rehearsals and making sure it’s a success every year. “For the first few years, the performers were mostly from Cathedral,” explains Somani and adds that now since the students come from various schools across the city, it is logistically quite challenging.

Behind the scenes

“The hardest thing is scheduling everybody’s rehearsals, especially since students are busy on weekends too,” says Somani and reveals that this is especially tough with 61 kids participating this year.” Plus, when siblings are involved, she needs to slot their rehearsals at the same time. “Once someone asked me to quickly wrap their rehearsal because he had to head out on a date and needed to go home to get ready for it!” she Somani.

Then, factor in schoolwork, projects and family commitments, and it becomes easy to see why Somani seems a bit hassled. “Over the years, I’ve even learned to deal with the parents,” she says, adding how it’s actually getting easier to deal with the kids instead. So much so, that this year a participant actually came for rehearsals on their birthday too!

But this year, the real challenge for Somani has been that since she’s been at school abroad she doesn’t know too many of the performers, which is a first for her.

Rehearsals take place at The True School of Music in central Mumbai, where band directors Yohan Marshall and Ashley Clapp have been assisting performers. It’s all a far cry from the early years, when rehearsals took place at Somani’s home. “But even now, people turn up at home to ask me to work with them on their acts and have extra rehearsals,” says Somani with a smile.

Mrinalini Somani , 17, is the mind behind We Concert
Mrinalini Somani , 17, is the mind behind We Concert

What’s in store…

This year, the concert line-up includes Somani and her band from Sherborne, who have flown down from all the way from the UK to participate in the do. They are performing Highway to Hell by AC/DC and Holiday by Green Day. Other acts, chosen after five days of rehearsals, include Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence rendered in a four-part harmony, and a jazz and Bollywood fusion piece featuring the clarinet, piano, drums and the santoor featuring songs such as Ajeeb Dastan Hai Yeh and The Way You Look Tonight. There’s even a duet by two 12-year-olds. “I was blown away by their talent given how young they were,” says Somani. “Then my mom reminded me that I got involved with the concert at the same age!”

All proceeds from the event benefit Salaam Bombay and have been instrumental in impacting 1,122 kids till date. This year, the organisation’s target is to raise enough to benefit 750 children.

Even after so many years, organising the concert thrills Somani just like the first time. “The very first aha moment is when the vocal and instrumental artists come together,” she says. “That’s when they realise they need to step up their game. The next revelation is when the back-up dancers get together for a rehearsal with the main dancers. And, when everyone steps on the stage at the Royal Opera House, that’s the final thrill!” Somani feels it is a dream to perform at a grand venue like that and a different experience from the early years, when concerts were held at Blue Frog.

And what would she say to people to encourage them to attend the concert, besides the fact that it’s for a good cause? Somani says this concert showcases the power of music. Moreover, it doubles as a unique platform that blends the gap between kids from privileged and underprivileged backgrounds who barely get to meet or interact with one another otherwise. “It shows that music really brings everyone together and this year it’ll be musically our best show ever!” signs off an excited Somani.

From HT Brunch, August 26, 2018

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First Published: Aug 24, 2018 21:20 IST