A musical tribute with Indian links at the Biden-Harris Inauguration

In the ensemble is the recently formed South Asian Symphony Orchestra, which was co-founded by former Foreign Secretary and Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Nirupama Rao.

As part of a series of events to inaugurate President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, members of some of the most established orchestras in the U.S. are getting together for a live-streamed musical tribute, “Fanfare for Joe and Kamala,” a day before the actual Inauguration. In the ensemble, whose members are drawn from the New York Philharmonic, the National Symphony and other big names in the business, is the recently formed South Asian Symphony Orchestra (SASO), which was co-founded by former Foreign Secretary and Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Nirupama Rao.

Principal horn player Nivanthi Karunaratne, a Sri Lankan American, will represent SASO in the ensemble. The group of 14, called the Hope and Harmony Ensemble, has been put together by Classical Movements run by Indian-origin Neeta Helms of Virginia.

The ensemble, half of which is comprised of women, will be led by conductor Marin Alsop.

“It is truly humbling to see the South Asian Symphony in the company of the greats — world-renowned orchestras, their names resonating with the fame they’ve earned worldwide. Our little Symphony was founded on a dream — a dream that nations come together, forgetting partitions and divisions, with their people embracing hope for better tomorrows,” Ms. Rao told The Hindu.

“This ‘Fanfare for Joe and Kamala’ is replete with that hope — that we may yet understand the essence of what makes humanity one, wherever we belong,” Ms. Rao, who is a vocalist, said.

The musical production will feature Aaron Copland’s ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’ in honour of Mr. Biden and Joan Tower’s ‘Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman’ in honour of Ms. Harris. The Copland piece was written in response to World War II in 1942. Ms. Towers is a post-War composer, a woman in a male-dominated world and the first of her Copland-inspired fanfares was dedicated to “women who take risks and are adventurous” and was dedicated to Ms. Alsop.

“This exhilarating project — featuring music by Joan Tower — reflects and celebrates that hard-won yet joyful progress [of women and persons of colour],” Ms. Karunaratne said in a statement.

“I deliberately chose musicians from coast to coast in the United States, inspired by Joe Biden persistently saying he was going to be President for all Americans,” Ms. Helms told The Hindu.

The musical director, originally from Mumbai, said that 50% female ensembles were “ not normal in the orchestra world.”

Ms. Helms had originally wanted to organise an all-female ensemble in 2008 for Hillary Clinton (Ms. Clinton lost the primaries to Barack Obama).

Additionally, six of the 14 musicians are people of colour in what is predominantly a “dead white male” world as she put it.

The performance music industry has taken a severe hit due to the pandemic, with it being unsafe for musicians to sit close together and due to the aerosol risks associated with the use of wind instruments. Tuesday’s performance was put together with musicians recording from their respective locations across the country.

The musical production will be streamed on January 19 at 1030 pm IST (12:00 noon U.S Eastern Time) on https://youtu.be/KnyQkXwH3Vg

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