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Young Singers of Greater Westfield host benefit concert

Students at the Mathieson Music School in Calcutta, India learn proficiency in at least one musical instrument. Children enrolled there come from orphanages or from the poorest families in the region. Reminder Publications submitted photo
By Katelyn Gendron-List

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD There are almost 8,000 miles of land and oceans between Massachusetts and Calcutta, India but for the Young Singers of Greater Westfield the children of the Mathieson Music School in Calcutta could not be closer in their minds.

On Aug. 23, at 7 p.m. the Young Singers will be giving a free benefit concert at the First Congregational Church in Westfield to raise funds for the Mathieson Music School. This school provides an academic and musical education for extremely poor or orphaned children in Calcutta.

"One look at the faces of the children in this school and it is better than any words that I can give," Donald Boothman, a performer and an organizer of the concert. "These young people are from the poorest of the poor and are as happy as any children can possibly be in their school."

The school was founded by Anup Kumar Biswas, director of the Mathieson Music School and famous worldwide concert cellist who will be accompanying the Young Singers next week.

Biswas founded the school in memory of Father Theodore Mathieson, who dedicated his life to running an orphanage Calcutta and provided the children with a musical education of both Indian and Western classical music, according to information released by Kara Noble, an organizer of the benefit concert.

"Anup is an incredible inspiration," Clifton J. Noble, Jr., pianist, guitarist and an organizer of the concert said. "He's so intense and the most positive human force I've ever encountered."

Noble stated that he got to know Biswas last summer when he donated his talents to a 29-performance concert tour throughout England to raise funds for the Mathieson Music School.

According to Boothman, who was also part of the tour, 15,000 British pounds were raised after 29 performances, which is enough to operate the school for six months.

It was during the tour that Noble got the idea to have Biswas come to Westfield and perform with the Young Singers and establish correspondence between the two musical groups.

Over the past year, Noble added, the children have exchanged recordings of their music as well as letters and drawings.

In order to honor the Western and Indian classical music traditions Noble stated that the Young Singers will be performing a variety of songs throughout the hour-long concert.

The Young Singers will be accompanied by Biswas, Boothman, Noble, Bob Sparkman, a jazz clarinetist and Samantha Noble, a mezzo-soprano.

Some of the featured pieces on the program will be two Indian songs "Anondo Lokay" and "A Boatman's Song" performed in the Bengali language, Noble said. "Sound of the Trumpet," a 17th century Baroque piece will also be performed, which the Young Singers have been working on for over a year. Other featured pieces bringing in the Western influences include "On the Sunny Side of the Street" and "Begin the Beguine" by Cole Porter.

"It's a huge variety," Noble said. "You won't get this kind of variety anywhere else."

Boothman stated that while the music will be played on Western instruments, with the exception of the tempura, the music will not "sound foreign to Western ears while keeping the themes of the Indian music."

Noble told Reminder Publications that he does not have a fundraising goal for this concert. He only hopes that "people will be inspired to give as much as they can."

All of the funds raised allow the 60 children attending the Mathieson Music School to learn proficiency in at least one instrument in addition to lessons in dance and song, Boothman stated. This education also allows them to earn a living within a musical profession and an income four-times that of those who receive a traditional education in India, he added.

Admittance to the school is "based on need, either because they are orphans or come from destitute, illiterate and often emotionally disturbed backgrounds," according to information released by Kara Noble.

"It's marvelous that any kids are being exposed to music and it saved by like many times," Sparkman said. "I think anyone involved in music would say that it has saved their lives more than once."