Shillong: India’s renowned pianist and founder, conductor, and mentor of internationals acclaimed choral group – Shillong Chamber Choir, Neil Herbert Nongkynrih was laid to rest on Saturday here in Meghalaya.
The 51-year-old musician, who is fondly called as ‘Uncle Neil’ died at Reliance Foundation Hospital in Mumbai due to Sepsis caused by a perforated ulcer on January 5.
Fans, family members, and relatives attended the funeral service held at his private house, the Whispering Pines, where his sister Pauline Warjri, friends and members of the Shillong Chamber Choir recalled their association and contributions of the late musician.
Onlookers were gathering along the route to his grave site as the police-escorted motorcade headed towards it and the hearse carrying his casket entered the Lawmali Presbyterian Church cemetery.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Conrad Sangma and many other dignitaries condoled Neil’s sudden demise.
An alumnus of Trinity College and Guildhall School of Music in London, Nongkynrih did numerous shows as a concert pianist in the United Kingdom and taught music in Oxfordshire.
He was one of his many successful pupils is Phillip Selway, member of the popular British band Radiohead.
In 2001, Nongkynrih returned to his birthplace Shillong from United Kingdom and started started teaching piano. In the same year, he founded the Shillong Chamber Choir, a multi-genre choir, which had won accolades from across the world. Nongkynrih revived the Khasi language with a Khasi opera.
In 2010, the choral group won the reality TV show ‘India’s Got Talent’. The same year also saw the choir being awarded three gold awards at the 6th World Choir Games for Musica Sacra, Gospel and Popular Music in Shaoxing China (Shanghai).
The Choir also performed at the Rashtrapati Bhavan for visiting USA President Barak Obama and Michelle Obama during their state visit to India.
Besides being a Padma Shri awardee, Neil has a number of state and national awards to his credits. He was awarded the ‘U Tirot Sing’ Award in 2011, Forbes Person of the Year in 2010‐11, Indian Chamber of Commerce Musician of the Year in 2010-11, CNN IBN Special Achievement Award for Indian of the Year in 2010-11, Kalabaaz of the year – Big TV Awards in 2011 and is also a Member, World Choir Council. In 2017, the Central government appointed as a member of the Central Board of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).