Oh, this was interesting! Below is the description of the event at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. What the description leaves out (because it could not have been promised, and was almost ineffable) was the sense of holiness that came across in the mingled voices of the singer and organ. The organ hall – extremely acoustically live and reverberant – came alive with Hindu prayer. I’ve never heard anything like it.
At the beginning, the organ played by Dr. Phillip Kloeckner sounded notes that definitely weren’t Western, rhythmic music. Mr. Surender Talwar entered the hall and sang as he slowly walked to the front. Immediately, the shape of the organ’s biggest pipes became conspicuous. These are flue pipes. They have mouths. They sing. It never registered on me that way before!
The final raga-organ improvisation (by which time the place was saturated with the musical stuff of this marvelous experiment) included Mr. Talwar singing one of the few Sanskrit words recognized by many non-Sanskrit speakers. Namaste. Reverent greeting – how apt as a final graceful note on this occasion.
A twenty-first century exploration of the synergies between two ancient traditions, one Eastern, one Western. Hindustani ragas (melodic modes) have been the vehicles for improvised mantras (sanskrit prayers) for centuries, and for almost a thousand years, organists have provided spontaneous music for liturgical and non-liturgical occasions. Enjoy and appreciate an hour of improvisations that blend, juxtapose, and contrast these diverse traditions into fresh and provocative music for our time with the magnificent Edythe Bates Old Grand Organ.
Surender Talwar, baritone