Celestial Celebration ~ Navagraha Utsav A Hindustani Choral Concert in Praise of the Universe Welcome to this Celestial Celebration, a celebration of the nine celestial influences, grahas, or Navagraha Utsav! Rita Sahai, prolific Bay Area composer, virtuoso singer and senior teacher of Hindustani classical music presents this ambitious choral concert composed by her and performed by her multi-age Vasundhara Choir with distinguished Bay Area musicians and guest artist Jennifer Berezan. Following on the heels of her 2008 choir concert Vasundhara dedicated to Mother Earth, Rita Sahai has composed Celestial Celebration - Navagraha Utsav, a concert in praise of the Universe, represented by the nine celestial influences or planets of ancient Vedic astrology called nava graha. Seven of the nava grahas correspond with the seven days of the week: the Sun with Sunday, the Moon with Monday, and so on with Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. Rahu and Ketu are the other two grahas which correspond to the two lunar nodes. Rita has paid honor to the nine unique grahas with a constellation of corresponding ragas, lyrics and compositions. Thus the moods of the compositions range from happy, creative, respectful and romantic to the sombre and even the martial. "The planets dance like our lives are dancing. They give us a sense of rhythm", says composer Rita Sahai. "They are mostly unseen forces that govern our lives and we respect them, just as we value Mother Earth", she adds. Born in Allahabad India, Rita was accepted at the age of nine as a disciple of renowned vocalist, Pandit Rama Shankar Mishra who groomed her in the romantic Benares Gharana style. In the United States, Rita continued her studies under the world famous sarod maestro and composer Ustad Ali Akbar Khan where she trained in the Seni Allaudin Gharana style known for it's creativity and purity of ragas. Impressed by her talent and passion towards music, Khan Sahib gave her the title "Gayan Alankar" (Jewel of Music). Rita has published several acclaimed CDs and has collaborated on projects with Alonzo King, Bella Fleck and Jennifer Berezan. Celestial Celebrations - Navagraha Utsav is offered as a tribute to the supportive influence of the teacher or guru and family elders, to the beneficial beings that inspire all of us, and shine on us like the sun, moon, stars and planets. Recently, within a short span of time, Rita Sahai lost her teacher Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, as well as her parents and a brother. "Khan Sahib gave me the tools so that I can carry forward his musical tradition. My parents encouraged me in my musical training since my childhood, and my brother said: Don't do anything mediocre Rita. Go for excellence!" she explains, visibly moved. The Vasundhara choir has more than forty singers from ages five to seventy-five. "With so many voices you feel the power of the human voice", says Rita Sahai. "The sun creates the week, but you can't have only the head. You need the family!" Her enthusiasm, joy and her pride in her choir and collaborators gently shines through.