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Home / Education / India-Yale ties: University choir to perform at Chennai’s St Mary’s Church to highlight 300-year-old bond

India-Yale ties: University choir to perform at Chennai’s St Mary’s Church to highlight 300-year-old bond

education Updated: Mar 07, 2017 19:10 IST
Institute of Sacred Music Yale University’s Schola Cantorum
Institute of Sacred Music Yale University’s Schola Cantorum(Robert Lisak)

When it performs at Chennai’s St Mary’s Church for the Sunday Service on March 19, the Yale Schola Cantorum (Schola), Yale University’s internationally renowned chamber choir, will highlight an important bond forged with India over a wedding that took place more than 300 years ago. It was in this oldest Anglican church east of the Suez and the oldest British building in India, in 1680, that a certain Elihu Yale married Catherine Hynmer - the first wedding to be performed in the church.

Yale, a vestryman (church committee member) and treasurer of St Mary’s was an American-born British merchant with the East India Company. He came to India in 1672 and went on to become governor at Fort St. George, the company’s post at Madras. On his return to England he donated 417 books, a portrait of King George I, and goods worth £800 (about Rs 65,000 now) to the Collegiate School of Connecticut, which was then renamed Yale in his honour.

Schola begins its tour of India from March 12 to 19, holding performances in Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai. It performs sacred music from the sixteenth century to the present day in concert settings and choral services around the world. Sponsored by the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, Schola is conducted by David Hill, one of Europe’s leading conductors who has been chief conductor of the BBC Singers, musical director of the Bach Choir, and Master of the Music at Winchester and Westminster Cathedrals in UK. He has a discography of over a hundred recordings and has been on the Yale faculty since 2013.

St Mary’s in Chennai: Elihu Yale was married to Catherine Hynmer here.
St Mary’s in Chennai: Elihu Yale was married to Catherine Hynmer here. ( Shutterstock )

The choir is open to all Yale students, including undergraduates and graduate students in all disciplines and professional schools. Most of them are selected by audition at the beginning of the academic year in September. They do not get credits but are paid stipends. About 30 of them will be coming to India on the India tour. Juilliard415, the Juilliard School’s principal period-instrument ensemble, will also tour with Schola. Hill is expected to lead with performances of German composer Johann Sebastian Bach’s Magnificat, instrumental works by French Composer Jean-Philippe Rameau and German Baroque composer Georg Philipp Telemann, and the premiere performances of a newly-commissioned work by the Indian American composer Reena Esmail, a graduate of both Yale and Juilliard.

Esmail’s interests embrace both Western and Hindustani (north Indian) classical music. In 2011-2012 she was a recipient of a Fulbright-Nehru grant, and moved to Delhi, where she was affiliated with the Faculty of Music and Fine Arts at Delhi University and studied Hindustani vocal music with musician Gaurav Mazumdar.

The choir will perform at Delhi on March 12, 6.30 pm, at the Bahá’í House of Worship, in Mumbai, March 16, 7 pm, at the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Tata Theatre, and in Chennai at Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Hall on March 19, 7 pm. Choir members will be at St Mary’s on the morning of March 19.

For more information on the tour, click here.