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Late medieval era Church music legacy preserved by rare organs

Handful of piped organs from the late medieval era preserved by the Goan Churches here are the last vestiges of the musical legacy brought in by the Christian missionaries during the Portuguese colonial rule in the state. Couple of these musical organs, have been repaired and put to use, while few more are gathering dust waiting for expert hands to get them fixed.

Representational picture

Saint Ignatius Loyola Church at Rachol, 80 kms from here, still plays music through piped organs during Sunday masses. Traditionally, the wind was blown through a pedestal board for this instrument while the organist plays with the keys. For the sake of convenience, at this Church, the conventional pedestal board has taken a backseat and wind is blown through an electric motor.

The organ is kept on the inside gallery just opposite the Altar of St Ignatius Loyola, the founder of Jesuit order. Fr Mousinho Ataide, attached to Rachol Seminary, said that these instruments date back to 1880, and are perhaps few of the last remains of the wind blowing musical instruments, which are on the wane.

The organ at Rachol was gifted to the seminary by then Archbishop in late 1800s to this Church constructed in the medieval era. Rachol seminary where the Church is housed is amongst the first churches built by the missionaries in Goa. The Church management concedes that the ageing musical organ has been a costly affair to maintain. Ataide said that a person is specially called from London, periodically to upkeep this rare instrument.

"During the feast, organ is accompanied by violin.Despite crossing 100 years of its service, it still gives melodious voice," the Father said, adding the music is much better than the electronic piano. The long pipes fitted inside the cupboard-shaped wooden structure create unique echo once wind is blown through them which is authentic sound of the medieval Church music.

Alike Rachol Church, Basilica of Bom Jesus at Old Goa, 10 kms away from Panaji, too has preserved one of such organ. But its not used since last 15 years waiting for the repairs. Fr Savio Barretto, Rector of the Basilica, said that the repairer had visited and inspected the instrument few years back, but he did not turn back. The basilica is a part of UNESCO heritage site.

The instrument, which has 'Hurry Brothers, Calcutta,' inscripted on it is a much bigger than the one at Rachol Seminary. The organ in Basilica was manufactured by Anglo-Indian organ building firm, Hurry Brothers, of Calcutta and rest were by a German firm. Fr Barretto admits that the organ, which one amongst the last few left in the world, has been left as a 'show-piece'. Until we get it repaired, its like a showpiece, said Fr Barretto, showing the huge wooden piped organ, installed facing the deity on the upper portion of the Church.

Considering the sanctity and antiquity of the instrument, the Church has not kept the instrument open for public viewing. Basilica of Bom Jesus has thousands of deities and tourists flocking every year. Across the road from Basilica, in the same complex, at St Cathedral Church, there is another piped organ, which is much smaller. 

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