World Music Day: Symphony Orchestra of India is coming to Chennai this weekend

The 70-minute programme will feature the overture to Mozart’s comic opera The Marriage of Figaro and Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony

Sonali Shenoy Published :  17th June 2022 07:00 AM   |   Published :   |  17th June 2022 07:00 AM

Symphony Orchestra of India

In their first tour after two years since the pandemic, Mumbai’s Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI) is back on the road. And the timing couldn’t be better, with World Music Day just around the corner. The ensemble, which will take the stage in Chennai on Sunday, is making up for lost time with an enthralling repertoire of music in store, paying homage to classical greats Mozart and Beethoven. The 70-minute 
programme will feature the overture to Mozart’s comic opera The Marriage of Figaro and Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, which remains one of the composer’s most beloved works. Resident conductor Mikel Toms takes us behind the scenes. Excerpts:

Live performances are back. And we couldn’t be happier. What has it been like for the Symphony Orchestra of India to be performing with physical audiences again?
It’s fantastic. There are so many elements of modern technology which allow us to reach our audiences online and remotely but nothing quite matches the energy and the excitement of performing music live in front of an audience. From the audience’s perspective, there’s nothing quite like the experience of being in the same room as a symphony orchestra. It gives us all a renewed appreciation of the joy of concert giving.

How did you navigate rehearsals with such a large group during the pandemic?
Rehearsing remotely in groups is virtually impossible even with today’s technology. So, during the pandemic most of our musicians spent time in individual practice, preparing their parts for the repertoire we planned to play once things reopened. We also moved all the lessons of our SOI Music Academy online, and though teaching online is not ideal, our students still made very good progress. Some of them also won international online music competitions during the lockdown.


Conductor Mikel Toms


For a lot of folks, the lockdowns were a time of discovery and exploring new facets of creativity. Did you unlock anything similar with all of that extra time?
Ever since the lockdown began, we have been preparing for live concerts to begin again. We have planned an extensive new repertoire to perform and have really taken a close look at how we can best present this work to the public. We have also worked hard to develop new ways to bring Western classical music to new audiences, exploring video, streaming, social media etc. We’ve also concentrated on the educational side of our work.  It’s so important that young people are given the opportunity to play music and all of our orchestra members work really hard to make this happen.

The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart is considered one of the greatest operas ever written. What has 
it been like rehearsing to bring it to life?

I love this piece! It’s the overture that opens Mozart’s great opera, The Marriage of Figaro, and sets the stage for everything that is about to unfold. It’s a riot of colour and energy and I don’t think anyone can listen to it without a broad smile on their face. It’s tricky to perform as it is very fast and has some difficult corners from a technical point of view, but it’s also hugely exciting to play.

This is your first tour in two years. Take us behind the scenes of what it took to gear up for these shows as well as pre and post-show rituals to celebrate?
We’ve had a long and intense rehearsal period for this tour and we’re all excited to get going. I don’t want to tempt fate by planning post-show celebrations but if the audience goes home happy, this is the best possible celebration.

On June 19 at Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall, 7.30 pm.