An Unforgettable Evening.

“A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.”

Chamber music is a form of classical music that is composed for a small group of instruments—traditionally a group that could fit in a palace chamber or a large room. Most broadly, it includes any art music that is performed by a small number of performers, with one performer to a part (in contrast to orchestral music, in which each string part is played by a number of performers). However, by convention, it usually does not include solo instrument performances.

Because of its intimate nature, chamber music has been described as “the music of friends”. For more than 100 years, chamber music was played primarily by amateur musicians in their homes, and even today, when chamber music performance has migrated from the home to the concert hall, many musicians, amateur and professional, still play chamber music for their own pleasure. Playing chamber music requires special skills, both musical and social, that differ from the skills required for playing solo or symphonic works.”

I have never been to either.

My friends Geeta and Koushik. as part of our current Vijayadashami festival, treated their friends and some members of their family to an evening of Carnatic Music and excellent food afterwards last Friday. It was a typically Indian adaptation of the Salon and Chamber Music combination called a Baithak. The performers were sitting on the floor and playing and some of the audience too did the same, though the older like me, preferred to sit on chairs.

It was two hours plus of sheer mesmerising Carnatic Music at its best. The singer Smt. Sushruti Santhanam, an accomplished artiste sound in theory as well as in rendition, introduced each piece to the audience, most of them unlike me, not comfortable with Tamil or Telugu, with English translation of the verses being sung as well as the background to each. Carnatic music is entirely devotional and often transports the performer as well as listeners to meditative states and this is exactly what Sushruti achieved with consummate ease. On two occasions I was moved to tears with her bhakti, something that has not happened to me in a long long time.

Her troupe, all amateurs, Smt. Aruna Sivaram on the violin, Sri. M.B.Harsha on the Mridangam and Smt. Sowmya Jayabharadwaj, with the Tanpura accompanying in singing, were equally brilliant and I was very impressed by the thani-avarthanam of the mridangam and the solo renderings of the violinist.

The icing on the cake was the post music session dinner of delicious South Indian cuisine. One particular item, a pickle took me back to many decades and I requested my hostess to let me have some to have at home which she gladly did.

All in all a delightful and unforgettable evening.