Thursday, October 27, 2016

Singing for JESUS

'Twas February 1986, just a month before my SSC Examinations. And a big event for Catholics in India. The pontiff of the Catholic Church - Pope John Paul II -  was visiting India for the first time. Hordes of Catholics, and people of other faiths as well, gathered at Shivaji Park in Dadar for the celebration of the Eucharist. And the celebration with the ringing of bells and voices - Ring Out Your Joy.

As the chorus chimed, it was followed by a verse sung by a familiar voice - my Dad's sister Jeanette Fernandes, who is still an integral part of the choir at the Holy Name Cathedral in Mumbai. What's even more special about the hymn is that it was composed specially for the Papal Visit, by a priest who has been the face of liturgical music in Mumbai for the past 50 years or more - Rev. Fr. Aniceto Nazareth
Rev. Fr. Aniceto Nazareth
A couple of weeks ago on October 16th (Sunday) the all-Bombay choir The Proclaimers - originally trained by Fr. Aniceto Nazareth were part of the celebration O Sing To the Chief Musician felicitating him on his Sacredotal Golden Jubilee - 50 years of his being a priest. Besides paying rich tribute to him in music and words of the bishops and others in attendance, the gathering also unveiled a page about Fr. Aniceto Nazareth on Wikipedia.

Among the various hymns composed by him, I can recall singing this wonderful song of praise at almost every family Church service since the mid-seventies. I still sing it while leading the morning Mass at my parish in Chembur.

Church Music has changed tremendously in the last 40 years that I've known it. Growing up, our church music would be characterized by the Church organ. We had a huge organ on the choir loft with two levels of keys and besides the foot pedal there were also foot keys, which were supposed to be used for the bass effects. The hymns would also have an aura of solemnity. Have Thine Own Way is one of the regulars sung at daily Mass through the 70s and early 80s.

Technological advances in music made the organs smaller and added more rhythms and effects to the keyboards. During my college days, I used to team up with friends who would be called to sing regularly for wedding Masses at the Don Bosco shrine in Matunga. Besides the traditional hymns, we'd try some catchy hymns that were fashioned on pop tunes. Also some original compositions by our keyboardist, Roney Gomes. Still remember this soulful reflection on the Eucharist - Bread Blest and Broken. 

The widespread adoption of the Yamaha Portasound PSR range in the late 90s and 2000s has seen the adoption of rhythms and effects in Church music. Our parish has a couple of keyboardists who really know how to get the best sounds off the keyboard - George Joseph.

Another recent development in church music over the past 10 years or so has been the introduction of Action Songs.  Designed to get the young to dance while singing, these songs are full of energy and life. The popularity of these Action Songs is driven by strong Youth movements - the Jesus Youth Catholic Movement being one example.

With the Diwali holidays having started this week in most schools, many parishes in Mumbai are conducting Vacation Bible Joy (VBJ).

There's sure going to be a lot of music and dancing out there. Or as I heard them say in Hindi - Nachunga Gaunga. I believe Sheldon Bangera is a Chemburite from the local sights around Chembur Station in this video. 

With all this music wave going around, it's no surprise that Gospel TV channels are going the 'Idol' route. Happened to meet up with the production team of a Christian TV Channel - BiG J TV which is planning auditions in Mumbai this weekend. If the Lord has blessed you with the talent of music and song, it's time you share that talent with the whole world by singing and dancing for the Lord. If you want more information on the auditions, check out Big Singer for Jesus.

More Christian music lined up this week for older youth and adults as well. St. Pius X Seminary in Goregaon is hosting Festival of the Light - a Proclamation Festival on 29th and 30th October. The program includes Proclamation thru Music and Social Media as well.

There's so much more wonderful spiritual music to share... will be back with more discussion and lots more music on the subject.

P.S. Exactly one year ago today, I paid tribute to The Singing Priest on this blog. Remembering him in a special way today as well for his musical inspiration. 

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