The 10-day Dikshitar-Beethoven Melharmony Festival, starting December 26 and co-ordinated from Madison, US, is among the biggest of its kind in the world that would bring together Grammy and other award winners as well as scores of emerging talents from several countries on the 250th birth anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven and the 245th birth year of his equally illustrious contemporary from the east, Muthuswami Dikshitar. The festival will be showcased at Shaale.
Pioneer of fusion
“Significantly, Muthuswami Dikshitar was the first composer in the world to explore the east-west fusion in the late 18th century when he composed Sanskrit songs based on western orchestral melodies. His younger brother Baluswami Dikshitar was arguably the first to introduce the western violin to Indian classical music and today it is one of the most prominent solo and supporting instruments in Indian music, especially in the South Indian Carnatic tradition,” Sangita Kalanidhi Chitravina N Ravikiran who leads the pack of global players, said while speaking to The Federal from the US.
20 years of Melharmony
The festival also celebrates 20 years of the inception of the concept of Melharmony, a revolutionary approach, which according to www.melharmonymusic.com “explores chords and harmonies anchored on the rules and aesthetics of evolved melodic systems”. The concept, which Ravikiran proposed in March 2000, has been developed significantly from a western standpoint by American composer Robert Morris of the Eastman School of Music. Over the years, several frontline orchestras, ensembles and celebrity artists of diverse cultures have presented Melharmony shows in various countries including India, USA, Canada, UK, Germany, and Switzerland among others.
Climate action and Covid relief
Like the festival’s previous editions since 2013, this year’s event features works of two master composers who scaled the peaks of creativity in the worlds of melody and harmony, said Ravikiran.
“The event also aims to raise funds for COVID-19 affected families, especially from the music community. One of the pieces, Snow Princess, is being presented by celebrity artists joined by scores of students from American Schools, specially trained by Middleton High School Orchestra Director Steve Kurr and Memorial High School Band Director Ben Jaeger. This piece, to be presented on 27th December aims to reiterate the need to save our planet from an environmental meltdown due to the climate change crisis,” he added.
Top draw line-up
The pièce de résistance of the festival will be on December 27 when four-time Grammy Awardee Glen Velez, Rhythm Vocalist Loire Cotler, KV Prasad, Apollo Chamber Players and Ed Matthews are slated to collaborate for two compositions of Dikshitar – Shree Kantimateem and Parvati Patim – arranged by Ravikiran. They will also be performing sections of Beethoven’s Op 18, Parts I and IV with the Houston based Apollo Chamber Players.
“We are so honoured to be part of this timely and important project to support COVID relief, while celebrating Ravikiran’s illustrious Melharmony and recognizing the convergence of two profound composers, Dikshitar and Beethoven,” Glen Velez and Loire Cotler have stated.
Other major artists in the festival include Sikkil Gurucharan, R Suryaprakash, Mylai Karthikeyan on Nadaswaram (a double-reed woodwind), Akkarai Subhalakshmi and Akkarai Sornalata besides violinist Vittal Rangan, and percussionists Neyveli Narayanan and KV Prasad.
“Apollo is thrilled to collaborate with Chitravina Ravikiran for this special celebration of the great Beethoven paired with Dikshitar. The connection to humanity’s current challenges and assistance to those in need makes this a truly meaningful, global initiative,” said Apollo Chamber Players.
The festival will also feature dozens of emerging performers from the US, India and Europe, performing with or accompanying these celebrities. “The spirit of Melharmony is to bring peoples of diverse cultures closer, musically and socially. I’m most heartened to see legendary artists and ensembles presenting my creations and I am equally thrilled to attempt to interpret Beethoven on the versatile Chitravina,” Ravikiran said.
“We owe a lot to the support from Arts Midwest, American Girl Fund for Children, besides a number of donors. We also welcome generous contributions from everyone to support artists affected by the pandemic,” said Vanitha Suresh of Melharmony Foundation.
The festival will be accessible for viewers online for a few weeks thereafter also at the same site.