Music Explored Beyond Listening and Learning


By Uma Ranganathan

HOUSTON: The weekend of April 25, was made memorable by the enlightening, as well as enchanting Spring Festival in its 38th year, hosted by the Classical Arts Society of Houston. The theme for this year’s festival was ‘Music and Wellness’. Following a short welcome address by founders Smt. Prabha Bala and Smt. Nalini Mukhopadhyay,  Dr. R. Visweswaran, Founder/CEO of the Viswa Group, and long time patron of Classical Arts Society, inaugurated the Festival. Then followed a panel discussion, facilitated by Dr. Arun Mukhopadhyay that brought together various facets of the theme, ranging from music wellness in our Ancient scriptures, to modern research findings. A special highlight was the speech by Dr. Richard Lee about Music Therapy at M.D. Anderson, which very well complimented and brought together the talks by other panelists. This was followed by a musical ensemble coordinated by Violinist Smt. Manjula Rao. It was indeed a relaxing hour with the seamless harmony of various instruments. And then, the highlight of the evening surfaced with the concert by the renowned Carnatic Vocalist Vidwan Sanjay Subrahmanyan, who was accompanied by Vidwan S.Varadarajan on the violin and Vidwan Neyveli Venkatesh on the mridangam. What started off as a cool evening rendition with a Varnam in Malavi ragam, reached the pinnacle of its warmth during the Shankarabharanam Ragam and Swaram, and further delightful was the Ragam Tanam Pallavi, which employed not just a Raga variation, but also had a philosophical twist to it. As always, there was a sense of novelty and a heavy dose of creativity and enthusiasm in the presentation.


The second day of the festival gave a visual shape to the theme, in the form of dance performances by Dr. Madhuri Vasudevan, Dr. Surabi Veeraraghavan, Ms. Lavanya Prabhu and Ms. Sneha Raju, guided by Guru Rathna Kumar and Guru Padmini, who led the Nattuvangam and Emcee respectively. While their first segment encompassed more of the Nritta aspect of dance, the latter half contained pieces brought out different emotions such as a mother’s love for her child. The second half was even more special with the presence of a live musical accompaniment; Dr. Rajni Natesan as vocalist, Mr. Mahesh Iyer as violinist and Master Ajay Subramanian on the mridangam.

classic 3in

This was followed by the finale segment of the festival; group renditions by three music groups. The first one was by the disciples of Vidhushi Rajarajeshwary Bhat, whereby they presented musical pieces based on Ragas which have a positive physical effect. This was followed by the second group of musicians coordinated by Ms. Chitra Dharmarajan who rendered compositions that elaborate on the Deities for good health. Finally, Vidushi Anuradha Subramanian and her disciples presented 24 out of the 72 Melakartha ragas, each of which is said to be connected to nerves in the human body. The Festival concluded with a vote of thanks by Mr. Partha Krishnamurthy, board member of the Classical Arts Society. The cancelled grand finale concert by the Malladi Brothers group due to airline problems was disappointing but mitigated by the high caliber festival performances of Houston’s own local artists!.

In conclusion the themed festival “Music and Wellness”, at the Meenakshi Temple, Pearland was memorable for the fine music and intellectually engaging discussions.

Thanks and well deserved appreciation to the coordinated efforts of all the Board members and volunteers of the Classical Arts Society of Houston.