KERALA

A sound change in Church music

The Sound of Music: Music director Jerry Amaldev at the rehearsal for Sunday's memorial for Pope John Paul II in Kochi. Photo: H. Vibhu

The Sound of Music: Music director Jerry Amaldev at the rehearsal for Sunday's memorial for Pope John Paul II in Kochi. Photo: H. Vibhu  

K.A. Martin

KOCHI: Forty years after the Second Vatican Council tried to put choral singing back where it belongs in the Catholic liturgy, the Church hierarchy in Kerala is trying hard to root out what has become a tradition of solo singing and musical entertainment at ceremonies that seem, like everything else in the State, influenced by films.

This may explain why there is a semblance of reviving the good old congregational singing by choirs at masses and requiems. For instance, the Cochin Arts and Communications (CAC) will stage a choral music memorial for the late Pope John Paul II in Kochi on Sunday.

"This is an awakening; it is not yet a trend," says Fr. William Nellikkal, director of the CAC and former secretary to the Media Commission of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC), about the way church choirs are being revived across parishes in the State.

The Church is now aware that the traditional colour and sound of the liturgy have been lost to trends that have crept in following inadequacies in handling the traditional church choirs, Fr. Nellikkal says.

Jerry Amaldev, music director who has brought the choral effect to Malayalam music with such distinction, is behind the CAC initiative. Way back in 1999, he and Fr. Nellikkal had warned the KCBC that the "disorders in liturgical singing would lead to monetary malpractice and destruction of the spiritual nature of liturgy." Paul Thelekkat, spokesman for the Syro-Malabar Church, says the Church hierarchy has always tried to instil the element of community singing in liturgical services. "We have not promoted the cause of orchestras and solo singing," Fr. Thelekkat says.

He concedes that on certain occasions, like on a feast day, some quality singing may be needed. Orchestras and solo singers met this requirement.

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