Classical Music in Bangalore, the Musicians and the Music

Western Classical Music

Western Music in Bangalore had its various lovers, some liked Jazz, some liked Blues, other Rock and some Classical. However, the last named was one of the highlights of a young girl's education in Old Bangalore. To name a few eminent teachers of this culture Edgar and Muriel Fewkes, Leila Bantleman, Rev. Mother Ligouri, Rev. Mother Agnes, Rev. Mother Angele, and still today with Rev. Mother Good Shepherd (Mother Good Shepherd passed away on 5th March 1999 at the Convent in Bangalore and interred on 6th) - all nuns being from the Good Shepherd Convent. Mother Good Shepherd comes from that famous music family the Thamboochetty's, from which family have come patrons and performers of a high caliber of western classical music.

The examinations conducted here at the Good Shepherd Convent were those set by the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music as were the examinations by the Trinity College of London. The former Examination Board was more popular till the 2nd World War, when sending examiners by sea all the way from England, was too hazardous. Trinity College Examiner Morris Mostowsky(i) who was the personal tutor of H.H. The Maharaja of Mysore, was then present in India to conduct the TCL Examinations, and thereafter pupils were presented fro these exams. It has only been during the last ten to twelve years that the Royal Schools have been making some headway, and now this Board is assuming more popularity that it enjoyed earlier. Mention must be made of some of Bangalore's performers in Vera Vaz who won the Maharajah's Gold Cup for Music, her sister Joy Preston who did her Diploma Examination at the ripe age of 12 years!! Colleen Mersh (Aquino) who played the pipe organ in St. Patrick's Church for many years. There are no doubt many others who became brilliant performers and teachers.

A group of enthusiastic amateur musicians used to meet at each other's houses play together and generally enjoy themselves. Others joined and a small orchestra was formed. Gradually as the numbers swelled, practices had to be held inn the Max Mueller Bhavan, then on Museum Road, and this group became known as the Max Mueller Bhavan Orchestra. Some of the names of these enthusiasts were Eric Gaynor, Elvin La Fontaine, William Bernard, Hartwell Yates, Rev. Fr. Futardo, Dr. Lall, and several others. Initially the orchestra was conducted by a German gentleman, but was later conducted by Dr. Alfred Mascarenhas. Mention must also be made of Rani Kotasanghani, the Maharaja's sister and Dr. Raja Ramanna who apart from being an ardent patron of Western Classical Music, is also a concert pianist of some repute.

The above information on music players of yesteryear and the history is compiled by Barbara Thomas, former music teacher of Bishop Cotton's Girls' School, Bangalore.

One of the good violinist that I can remember was an elderly gentle who used to stay on Albert Street called D'Cruz, and who wore the famous British hard and round safari hats.

At this time of updating this page, we lost two of Bangalore's good musicians on the 5th March 1999, the great pianist Mother Good Shepherd, of Sacred Heart's Girls' High School, Bangalore who was interred on 6th March at the Convent, and Carlisle Bartley passed away at Muscat on 5th March 1999, and will be buried in Bangalore on 10th March 1999 at the R.C. Cemetery on Hosur Road.... Ron, 9th March, '99.

Update from a good musician:   Subject: Max Mueller Bhavan Orchestra Date:Thu, 18 Mar 1999 08:38:47 EST

Ronnie, I read with interest your page on Bangalore.

I am the third child of Colleen Mersh (Aquino). She had five children, 4 boys and a girl. We were all trained in piano playing and did Trinity College of Music exams. I went on to get my Licentiate and then studied at St. John’s Medical College. I am now a surgeon in Houston, Texas.

After Dr. LaFontaine died I took over as secretary/archivist of the Max Mueller Bhavan Orchestra until I left Bangalore in 1978. Dr. LaFontaine’s son Dennis went on to be the Commander in Chief of all the Indian armed forces before he retired. My father Air Commodore John Dunbar Aquino, IAF was his commanding officer at the Air Force Academy.

I used to play the bassoon, an excellent instrument that was bought from Germany by the Goethe Institute as we Indians could not possibly afford such an expensive piece. Dr. Alfred Mascarenhas the conductor was my professor of surgery and my mother played the piano. I spent may enjoyable evenings at orchestra practice and gained invaluable experience in playing with a group. During this time I taught theoretical music. My pupils included Naomi Heredia and Vijanti Bhateja, who later went on to become a Professor in Pathology at a local medical school.

Thank you again for the trouble you have taken to put it all together.

Marcus Michael Aquino, MD, FRCS, FACS

e-mail: Ronnie 1 (or) Ronnie 2

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