Father Paul Poovathingal’s classical concert was a paean to religious amity.
Father Paul Poovathingal opened his concert at Devi Prabha auditorium, Thrissur with the alluring Thodi varnam of Patnam Subramania Iyer, ‘Era napai’ in Adi. Music buffs were amazed not only by the rendition delivered in his charming voice, but the alacrity with which the priest entreated Lord Venkatesa (‘Maruni kanna Sri Venkatesa, Sukumara nannelukora sarasuda’) to protect him.
The concert at the hall of the Manalarukavu Temple, Viyyur, was an example of harmony in every sense of the word. Inspired by the protracted applause from the auditorium packed to its capacity, the vocalist switched to Dikshitar’s ‘Vathapi Ganapathim’ after a short alapana of Hamsadwani. Sangatis of the first line flowed in quick succession. Gliding over the three sthayis, a plethora of swaras added to the attraction of this popular composition.
‘Akhilandeswari’, the Dwijavanthi composition in Adi, provided a contrast for the slow tempo of the kriti. Though niceties of some phrases were missing, Paul could successfully evoke both the raga and sahithya bhavas of this stately composition of Dikshitar’s.
Soon followed Dikshitar’s ‘Samaja vara gamana’ in Hindolam, Adi. A short essay of the raga preceded the rendition that portrayed its intrinsic shades. Presented in a slightly fast tempo, the percussion support by Jayakrishnan on the mridangam and Vellaattanjur Sreejith on the ghatam helped the vocalist to enhance the standard of his concert. The swaraprasthara was commendable.
Paul then took up the lyrics ‘Vishtapa thraya natha, sakala guna poorna’, the lines of Arnos Pathiri, a German missionary famous for his epochal work, Puthan Paana, in Malayalam during the 18th century. A scholar of Malayalam and Sanskrit, Pathiri had composed this work, deriving inspiration from Poonthanam’s Jnanapaana. Paul himself had scored the music for the lines in Panthuvarali, Roopakam. The alapana of the raga, though short, was enticing.
Tyagaraja’s ‘Nagumo’ in Abheri was both crisp and inspiring. The musician’s virtuosity was evident in the elaboration of Sankarabharanam, which was the main raga of the evening. Phrases that radiated the multiple facets of the raga unfolded as he delved deep into it. The kriti was Syama Sastri’s ‘Sarojadala netri’ in Adi.
Aziz’ violin reproduced the raga in a laudable manner, with propriety. ‘Samagana’ was taken for niraval and the swaras extended over the three sthayis as well. Tani by the percussionists was in the right proportion.
Next, the vocalist sang a patriotic number, ‘Jai ho, jai ho Bharath maa ki’, one of his own compositions. This was followed by a light number, ‘Radha than premathodaano Krishna, njaan paadum geethathodaano’, a composition of the Jaya-Vijaya duo.
The Arabic number ‘Salamulla, Salathulla’ in praise of Allah came as another pleasant surprise for the audience. Paul, the only Christian priest with a doctorate in Carnatic music from University of Madras, said he had learnt this song from K.J. Yesudas.
Perhaps it was the temple authorities who deserved praise for having organised such a unique concert, that too as part of the ‘Naveekarana sahasra kalasam’.