PSU students win national competition for Indian music

    “Sangeeth Samraat – Carnatic Premier League 2015,” is a competition to identify the best talent in Carnatic music, the classical music of South India, from all over the world. The national competition was held at a Hindu temple in Delaware.

    This is the first time non-Asian performers have competed on the show. It will also be the first time that an American choir has appeared on Indian TV, according to the show’s producers.

    The program is a reality show akin to “American Idol.” The ensemble’s performance will be broadcast worldwide on Sri Sankara TV in December.

    The performers from Portland are Shiva Bharadwaj, a percussionist who is a junior at Oregon Episcopal School, and eight members of the Portland State Chamber Choir, the top choral ensemble at PSU. Ethan Sperry, director of choral activities at PSU, conducted the group.

    The ensemble performed two pieces. Both feature Bharadwaj on the mridangam, a barrel-shaped, double-headed finger drum. Bharadwaj has studied this instrument since he was 5 years old. The pieces feature a call-and-response pattern between the percussionist and the singers.

    “Blossoming Lotus” is a thillana—a dramatic rhythmic piece that’s traditionally the finale of a Carnatic concert. The text was written by Bharadwaj and the melody composed by violinist H. N. Bhaskar. “Misra Chapu Lullaby” is the Carnatic adaptation of an original arrangement by Ethan Sperry. Bharadwaj created the rhythmic arrangement for the piece.

    This project grew out of a multi-year collaboration between Bharadwaj and Sperry, who arranges Indian music for Western choirs to perform. Sperry’s “Global Rhythms” series, published by earthsongs music, is one of the bestselling series of world music for choirs in the United States.

    Oregon Episcopal School requires juniors to conduct a year-long literary journalism project with an external advisor, and Bharadwaj has been working with Sperry to research konnakol, the spoken percussion syllables used in Carnatic music. He wrote “Blossoming Lotus” as part of that project.

    Before the competition, Sperry said, “We went to compete in the Carnatic Premiere League almost on a whim. We had no intention of anything other than cultural exchange. We are so excited to share our work with musicians from all over the country.”


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