Music
Many of the children in the choir come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and need your help to make it to the festival.

Remember the children’s choir from Chennai whose rendition of AR Rahman and Michael Jackson’s hit songs went viral in 2016? The group is now one among the choirs selected from 25 countries across the world to perform at the Serenade! Washington, DC Choral Festival in June 2018.

The Chennai Children’s Choir is an initiative of the Nalandaway Foundation and has 23 children. Many of these children come from disadvantaged backgrounds, one of the members is autistic and two are visually impaired. But what brings them all together is their love for music.

The Serenade festival is an “exuberant celebration of choral music from around the world, offering unforgettable, life-changing experience for both singers and audiences alike.” The festival will be hosted in the John F Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts between June 25, 2018, and July 2, 2018.

Speaking to TNM, Nalandaway’s founder Sriram Ayer says that they applied for the festival months in advance - in November 2017.

When they broke the news to the children that their choir had been selected, Sriram says that reactions were priceless. “It took them some time to comprehend what this meant. Many of them have not even travelled beyond Tamil Nadu. And when they realised this would mean that they would get to fly in a plane, it became a more exciting prospect than the festival itself,” Sriram laughs.

The children’s parents were initially apprehensive, he shares. “But we’ve been working with these children for three years now. They know what the choir means to their kids, so that was mitigated. Then the issue was that none of them had passports. And now, all the children have passports even though the parents don’t!” Sriram says.

The Chennai Children’s Choir has been selected to perform alongside others choirs like the Nai Syrian Children’s Choir, which allows “young refugees to learn to express their grief, yearning, love and hope through singing in their mother tongue and in the official languages of their new home, Canada.”

There is no doubt this is a fantastic and meaningful opportunity for these children, most of whom come from broken homes, or where their parents are in labour-oriented jobs, or where poverty is routine. However, there is one hurdle – and here’s where you can help.

The total expenditure of the flight and accommodation for the children is around Rs 33 lakh, the bulk of which is the airfare. “We have been unable to get any kind of discounts or deals for the kids except Air India, who have agreed to give us some concession,” Sriram shares.

The Foundation has started a crowdfunding campaign on Ketto, where they have, at the time of writing this, managed to raise over Rs 9.6 lakh. The fundraiser is open till May. You can donate here.

The children have been practising on Sundays, but the sessions will get more rigorous in May when they have their summer holidays. For their performance at Serenade, the kids are preparing both old and new melodies.

You can tell how much this opportunity would mean to the kids in the Chennai Children’s Choir because of the relationship they share with music. For one girl, her relationship with music is that of mother and daughter. For another boy, music is the “constant feeling of joy”. Watch this video to know more:

Learn about the Chennai Children’s Choir’s journey through this short documentary, which chronicles the children’s selection, how they learnt about music, and became not just a choir but a family.