City-based a capella group, Octet Cantabile, an ensemble with four women and four men, is celebrating its historic 25th anniversary with a special concert.
“We were inspired by Swingle Singers, an international a capella group, famous for its vocal versions of musical pieces and wanted to launch something similar in the city. That’s how Octet Cantabile was born with eight voices in 1994. Each member of the group has undergone varying levels of musical education and the synergy that such training has produced has stood us in good stead. For a group to stick together for so many years is a great achievement and what kept us together was our passion for music,” says Augustine Paul, founder-leader of the group. He has a clear, unique style that can be seen in all of his arrangements of songs presented by the Octet.
They sing different kinds of music — ranging from classical to contemporary and more. They sing in English, Tamil and Malayalam, and were the first group in India to clear the Advanced Level in Ensemble singing — an examination conducted by the Trinity College of Music, London — with distinction.
“Chennaiites started loving our music and we gave them a special repertoire of songs. While music forms an integral part of the presentation by the Octet, the focus, however, is the desire to spread the gospel of peace and love through our singing,” he shares.
Over the years, the group has had a few changes, but it’s worth mentioning that five of the eight have been there from the inception! Octet Cantabile has performed in various concerts and fundraising events across the world. One of the members, Billy John, remembers how each time if someone leaves the group, the entire team had to start all over again. “We would be ready to perform with 70 songs in the list. But when one person leaves, all our plans would crash and we have to start from scratch.
In this process, we also learned and improvised. We have gone through all kinds of weather, very productive years, dormant times, grave health issues and so on,” he says.
The current group has Roshni Sharon and Maxyn Kingston as sopranos, Pearline Roopkumar and Jayanthi Prabhakar in the alto line, Augustine Paul and Emmanuel Pratap Singh as tenors and Kingslin Ponbhabha and Billy John as the basses.
Octet Cantabile will be presenting a concert on July 13 and 14 at Museum Theatre, Egmore, from 7 pm onwards.