The two musical tours of Bangalore | Latest India News
Bengaluru: In letters to his father, Mozart called the pipe organ “the king of instruments”. The characterization has since clung to this large, complex, expensive and mystifying musical instrument. Over the centuries, several of these “kings of instruments” have been created, used and preserved, mainly by churches.
In Bengaluru, the desire to hear an organ would lead you to two churches – St. Mark’s Cathedral and St. Andrew’s Church – which continue to preserve the only organ pianos from the pre-independence era.
The enormous pipe organ in St. Mark’s Cathedral near MG Road is in surprising original condition, although parts of the instrument, somewhat worse for 93 years of wear, have been restored. Avinash Grubb is so used to showing the abilities of this marvel of an instrument that he can explain the instrument even using its four limbs to play a hymn or two – his hands play the keyboard while his feet dance on the pedals. . .
It was in 2004, Grubb succeeded David Sebastian, the former organist of St. Mark’s Cathedral. But before that, at the age of 18, Grubb began training with Sebastian to play the instrument. As much as playing music, he is passionate about the story that accompanies the organ pipe.
The foundation stone for the church was laid in 1808 and construction was completed in 1812. But on February 17, 1923, the church building was destroyed by fire. The reconstruction of the church began in 1926 and was completed in 1928.
In 1929 the pipe organ was installed.
“The pipe organ was a gift from Avis Cowdrey of the Cowdrey family (father of cricketer Michael Colin Cowdrey). The organ is designed by two British builders, with only the metal pipes being built in England, while other parts were built in Bangalore. The cost of construction was then ??80,000, which was a significant sum for that time, ”said Grubb.
“The name of the pipe organ comes from the fact that it is a wind instrument and the pipes produce the music. The keyboard has 61 notes and there is a pipe for each corresponding note. Now the pipes, the eight pipes sound high, four feet will be one octave higher, two feet will be two octaves higher, and you will be 16 feet pipes, one octave lower. Basically, we play several octaves at the same time, which is not possible on any other instrument, ”he explained.
One of the important parts of the instrument is the air reservoir, which helps produce the music. Previously, three to four men had to pump the wind with organ bellows while the instrument was played to produce the required wind, but when the organ was installed at St. Mark’s Cathedral, an engine was imported from the UK for work. , which remains even to this day.
It is very difficult to master the art of playing the organ. It takes all the senses on the alert to hear the sound and maintain a simultaneous movement of the hands and feet, and especially to keep an eye on the choir. For this there are three mirrors. The pianist facing the massive instrument can keep an eye on the priest, co-conductor and in the event of marriage the bride walking towards the altar, with these three mirrors.
Even the music played on the organ piano keeps the instrument’s legacy in mind, Grubb said while discussing the responsibility that comes with playing an instrument with such historical value. “We follow the Gregorian chants, which symbolize solemnity and respect. Even if the song of the churches has changed over time, we have kept this century-old tradition. In addition, our choir sings a lot of music which is accompanied by the organ piano. Organ music is very difficult to play with the choir because it is classical music, but we continue this tradition because of the heritage we have with us, ”he said.
A few miles from St. Mark’s Cathedral, overlooking the South Parade grounds, is a magnificent structure – St. Andrew’s Church. The church, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in November 2014, was inaugurated on November 18, 1866. Initially, it was intended for Scottish officers, the British Army in Madras and civilians of Scottish descent. Kannada services started in 1965.
The Scottish heritage church is frequented by musicians, artists and architects. Along with Gothic architecture and beautiful stained glass windows, the church houses an elegant 140-year-old pipe organ. This old pipe organ, called the “big little monster” of St. Andrew’s Church, was installed by builders Peter Gonacher and Co. in 1881. It is the oldest pipe organ in town.
According to church elders, during British times organ music could be heard from Cubbon Park more than a mile away, but traffic drowned it over time. Because of the musical heritage, the church has placed an emphasis on developing musical talent: “In pre-pandemic times, every five Sundays we have musicians come and perform here. It’s free and open to everyone, ”said Mark, a parishioner.
As Christmas approaches, these “instrument kings” of Bengaluru prepare to bring back the sounds of Bangalore of yesteryear.