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Royal Albert Hall to echo with 'golden voices' of South

Indian Express, Ravi Menon, April 7, 2001

 

IT’S a dream come true for the ‘golden voices’ of the South. K. J. Yesudas, S. P. Balasubramaniam and K. S. Chitra, the biggest names in South India’s playback scenario, have been invited to present their maiden concert at London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall on June 9.

‘‘Singing at the great venue is an honour for any playback artist in the world,’’ said Yesudas. ‘‘It will be a remarkable occasion.’’ Though Yesudas has performed in almost all the major cities of the world, including London, it will be his first appearance at the Hall, the most revered performing centre of the world. Chitra added that she felt proud to sing at a venue where legends like Lata Mangeshkar and M. S. Subbulakshmi had performed.‘‘It will be an historic affair,’’ said the nightingale of the South.

S. P. Balasubramaniam did not conceal his excitement when asked about the ‘big day.’ ‘‘I have shared the stage with Yesudas at quite a number of venues in Switzerland, France, Singapore and Malaysia. But we have never performed together in England. Singing along with Yesu annan, ‘‘that too at the magnificent Royal Albert Hall, will be an unforgettable experience,’’ said SP, whose maiden tour abroad was to Singapore in 1973.

Lata Mangeshkar was the first playback artist from the country to present a concert at the coveted venue. Upon the request of the then Defence Minister V. K. Krishna Menon, Lata did three concerts on three consecutive days in 1973 at the historic hall. The double album of her Royal Albert Hall concert is a prized possession of Lata fans all over the world.

In 1979, Lata returned to the hall, this time to sing to the accompaniment of British musicians of the Wren Orchestra. It was the first time that an Indian artist was being accompanied by Western musicians.

Yesudas, Balasubramaniam and Chitra will join the handful of Indian luminaries who had been invited to perform at the venue, including the legendary Carnatic vocalist M. S. Subbulakshmi, playback singer Asha Bhonsle and ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh. The June 9 programme, which is being organised by an Indian group in London, will feature some of the all-time hit numbers from Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi films.

The Royal Albert Hall was conceived by Prince Albert, following the success of the Great Exhibition of 1851 (the world’s first International Expo), as the centre-piece of the proposed development of a range of national institutions — cultural, scientific and academic — that for the first time would be located on a single site. As a first step, a 50 acre estate in South Kensington was bought from the substantial profits made by the exhibition. By the end of the 19th century, the area had been transformed and today embraces not only the hall, but the Victoria and Albert Science and Natural History Museums, Imperial College, the Royal Colleges of Music and Art and the Royal Geographical Society.

Prince Albert died in 1861, before much of the site was occupied. But by then the overall concept had firmly taken root. Under the Royal Charter of 1867, a corporation was established to ‘build and maintain’ the Hall of Arts and Sciences, (to which Royal Albert was soon added). Construction was completed in 1871, when the Hall was formally opened in the presence of Queen Victoria, the late Prince’s widow.

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