By Gayathri Sathiamoorthy and Nagendra Rao
SOUTHBOROUGH, MA–Cancer Institute Foundation, whose motto is ‘Free Cancer Treatment for the Underprivileged’, held its third annual fund raiser “Sangam” using talent of the local artists and students from New England area, and raised sufficient funds to help 15 child cancer patients get chemo for 6 cycles each.
The event was held at Trottier Middle School in Southborough, MA, in June and was attended by over 250 people, said Sreeranjani Rajagopalan of the Boston chapter of the Cancer Institute Foundation. Six local artists and about 30 students participated in the cultural program, she said.
The cultural program was held in three segments: (1) instrumental by Durga Krishnan on Veena and her students from New England School of Carnatic Music, accompanied by Pravin Sitaram on Mridangam and Rajesh Pai on Tabla; (2) Vocal Carnatic music by Aparna Balaji and her students from Abhyaas School of Music accompanied by Sri. Pravin Sitaram on Mridangam and Smt. Smitha Krishnan on violin; and (3) a dance performance by Smt. Sapna Krishnan and her students from Lasya School of Dance.
Krishnan of the New England School of Carnatic Music and her students Sahana Venkatesh, Aruna Thirumalai and Suhasini Aravinthan had aptly chosen Lord Sri Subramanya as their theme because he is believed to be the lord of ‘cure’. Their first song was Swaminatha Paripalaya in Naatai Ragam set to Aadi talam, composed by Sri Dhikshidar. There were a few rounds of brisk swarakalpana at the end of the song which set the tempo for the rest of the program. Following this was ‘Thaamadham thagaadhaiya’ a song in Mohana Kalyani set to Aadi thalam, composed by Lalgudi Sri Gopala Iyer. The next piece which was the main item of their performance, Sri Balasubramanya, a composition of Sri Dikshidar in Bilahari Ragam and set to Misra Chaapu thalam.
Krishnan also played a short but precise alapana of Bilahari the majestic gait of the song captivated the audience. There was swarakalpana at the end of the song that was followed by a wonderful percussion solo by Sri. Pravin Sitaram and Sri Rajesh Pai. It was definitely impressive to see how well tabla would blend with the carnatic music. This was followed by a ‘Maalai Pozhudu’ in ragamaalika set to Aadi talam in tisra nadai. This song was composed by Sri Kalki and popularized by Smt M S Subbalakshmi. The Veena program ended with a thillana, a composition of Thanjavur Sri S. Kalyana Raman in Sindhu Bhairavi set to Adi thalam. This was indeed a treat to the mind and ears.
The above program was followed by Balaji and her students Amritha Pai and Mahathi Athreya . They were accompanied on the violin by Smt. Smitha Krishnan and on the Mridangam by Sri. Pravin Sitaram. They started the concert with a Padavarnam by the violin maestro Lalgudi G. Jayaraman in the ragam Charukesi, set to Aadi thalam. They chose Jalandhara in the raga Valaj set to Rupaka thalam by Sri Harikesanallur Muthaiya Bhagavathar. Smt. Aparna Balaji explained that Devi is described as the one who rids the world of diseases of both body and mind and did neraval and swarakalpana for the line Bhavaroga Nivarini. Sri. Pravin Sitaram performed a short solo following the kriti. They then moved on to a thillana in the raga Revathi set to Misrachapu thalam and composed again by the violin legend Lalgudi Sri Jayaraman. They concluded their segment with the Vaidhyanatha Ashtakam set to ragamalika by Smt, Aparna Balaji herself as the name Vaidhyanatha meaning the one who cures diseases.
Guest of Honor was Dr.Venu Bathini, Director – Hematology Oncology and Faculty member at UMass Medical School & UMass Memorial Medical Center. He spoke about his experience with the prestigious Adyar Cancer Institute and inspired the audience to make a generous donation
The enchanting dance of the evening was presented by Smt Sapna Krishnan and students of Lasya School of Dance based in Shrewsbury, MA. The program began with a brisk, fast paced Anjali where different groups of dancers entered the stage with a crisp introductory piece, followed by the famous Deeekshita kriti ” Mahaganapathim Manasa Smarami.” Both of these items presented caught the audience’s interest for their vibrant movements and beautiful formations. The junior students brought to life, “Bho Shambo” the famous composition of Swami Dayananda Saraswati. Again the choreography and energy of the dancers had the audience glued to their seats.
The highlight of the program was a solo performance by the Sapna Krishnan. She presented a gracious combination of Bhava and Abhinaya in the padam, “Chinna Chinna Padam” in Raaga Kapi. The audience were enthralled by her depiction of the heroine calling the little Lord Krishna, with the pitter patter of his little feet adorned by little ankle bells. The piece also depicted how the pressure of Lord Krishna’s feet crushed the towering pride of the myriad-hooded monster snake Kaliya, to the delight of the people of Brindavan. The next item was a unique piece, a Meera bhajan adapted for Bharatanatyam, tuned by Sri. Sudev Warrier in Ragamalika. Dancers took the role of Krishna and Radha alternatively and depicted the merriment of Brindavan.
The most elaborately choreographed and longest piece of the program, “Chandrachooda”, a Keertanam on Lord Shiva, praises the Lord as the one who carries “Chandra”, the crescent moon on his head. In this piece, different stories related to Lord Shiva came to life with dancers portraying different roles. Portrayal of churning of the milk of ocean, story of bhakta Markandeya, burning of Kamadeva was superbly portrayed. The senior students along with Guru Sapna Krishnan brought out the elegance and power of the Lord in front of the audience.
The next piece was a scintillating Kavadi, a folk dance of worship performed at the temple town of Pazhani, the abode of Lord Muruga. Carrying the colorful prop “Kavadi”, the dancers beautifully coordinated the different formations and danced to the captivating rhythm. The evening ended with a Thillana by veena maestro, Chitti Babu where all the 25 dancers came together on the stage with their colorful costumes depicting a striking classical dance pose.
Each of the eight pieces was meticulously choreographed by Guru Sapna Krishnan, harnessing the grace and skills of her students. It was a pleasure to see the bouquet of Bharatanatyam dancers come together on the stage for a worthy cause.
While the mind, eyes and ears were having a wonderful treat inside the auditorium there was a treat for the tongue in the form of delicious snacks, coffee and tea in the cafeteria donated by local restaurants.
There were stalls like mehndi and face painting by volunteers that kept the kids busy. Middle School Student Sasmeta Giriraj donated her entire sale of crocheted bags made by her late Grand Mother to CIF. She was supported by 3rd Grade Students Ansh Nandurbarkar and Darshan Nawin Giriraj. Middle School Students Rishi Nadurbarkar and Hari Vengatakrishnan facilitated the raffle, donated by SVTM Jewelers & BMW of Sudbury. Money collected via raffles, snacks, Mehndi & Face Painting were donated to the cause. Jewelry and clothing merchants also joined the fund raiser by donating a small amount to the cause.
Photographer Volunteer Jeyakumar Sathyamoorthy froze candid moments and Videographers volunteers Lakshmikanth Ghatraju and Manoj Panicker (MRK Visuals) recorded the event. Volunteer Karthik Srinivasan with a passion for sound engineering executed the sound and video requirements flawlessly.