In the digital age of remixes, DJing and pop culture, the dominance of classical music is quite low, but the Chennai-based troupe Madras Chamber Orchestra (MCO) aims to break the wall. It has not only successfully run for 45 years, but is also attempting to make more youngsters listen and appreciate western classical music. Jehrone Fernandes, co-founded the group along with three others in 1975 as a quartet and now it’s a 25-member group with string instruments.
After four decades now, MCO has partnered with legendary violinist and conducter Bernard Wacheux from France to conduct their concerts. “When we started back in the days, we had more audience who were interested in classical music — Indian or western. After a lot of film music came in as competition and took over the classical, the youngsters switched over. It wasn’t a huge challenge then, but it is now,” says Jehrone the principal violinist who has played instruments with music directors like Ilayaraaja, AR Rahman, Anirudh, Santhosh Narayanan and more.
He adds, “Although all musicians from MCO like playing instruments for films, we feel alive on the stage and most of us have completed our course from the Trinity College London, and we want to play together as a troupe on stage — the feeling is amazing and we love it! The upcoming concert — A Christmas Music Festival — is a Carnatic rhapsody which is an interesting crossover of classical and contemporary into a beautiful blend!”
Bernard Wacheux who has taken over the responsibility of making MCO a bigger name in music shares more, “I like the passion of the musicians in the troupe and that’s what brought me here! It is a great challenge for me to make musicians grow and make an orchestra bigger.” He talks about Indian audience, saying, “I love the Indian audiences — they don’t want to intellectually judge a concert. They just enjoy the music as it is and appreciate after the concert! It’s great to have such an audience.”
MCO is also a rare local orchestra in India with all the musicians from Tamil Nadu. Stating that the secret of their success is perseverance and discipline, Jehrone adds, “Our fusion concerts with Carnatic music ragas and western tunes are the most, well-received part of our performances.”
Having performed thousands of concerts in his long career, Bernard still wants to keep innovating newer music. He is both an instrumentalist and a teacher and a conducter. When asked which profession he likes better, he responds, “Both produce music and that’s what I like!”
With the main motto to increase the audience for such concerts, MCO wants to perform in more concerts. “We want people to come and encourage the music. Each year, we plan to double the number of concerts. We hope to perform in all metro cities in India and expand slowly to perform in different countries. The ultimate aim is to explain our music to the audience as that is the need of the hour!” concludes Bernard....