The famed 19th century band stand in front of the 131-year-old Napier Museum might host police and army bands after a lull of at least two decades, according to Zoo and Museum officials.
Before the advent of electricity and radio, police and army bands regularly performed field music on the architecturally-impressive circular stone structure to entertain the colonial rulers of the Victorian gaslight era.
It was a time when employees of the erstwhile State of Travancore would hurry around the capital city before night fall to manually light the “inverted cone” shaped street lamps. The vintage Rama Rayar lamp at LMS junction is perhaps among the last remaining symbol of the period. Former Museum director K. Raveendran, quoting from the memories of his predecessors, said the police and military bands performed on the stand possibly between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. every day. With the advent of Malayalam broadcasting in the 1940s, radio slowly replaced the band music at Museum grounds.
Robert Chisholm, architect of the Napier Museum, designed the band stand as an ornamental focal point of the upper botanical garden surrounding the art museum. His design also met the acoustic requirements of the time.
Till the end of the 1980s, a police band from the nearby Nandavanam Police Armed Reserve Camp performed on the band-stand between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. on all Saturdays. The Zoo authorities would reciprocate their gesture by issuing them an allowance for breakfast.
K. Udaya Varman, Director Museum and Zoo, said as a first step, a modern audio system linked to an elaborate network of high end speakers would be put in place to ensure that the regular All India Radio broadcast between 6 p.m. and 9.30 p.m., currently amplified by concealed speakers on the band stand, could be heard in a soft tone all around the garden.
He said public opinion seemed to be in favour of having police and army bands perform on the band stand on special days.
If popular will prevailed, the band stand would perhaps reverberate once again to the gong of drums, drone of bagpipes, call of bugles, and the inspiring fanfare of the brass band.