The musician next to you at mass

Published: Nov 19, 2019, 07:00 IST | Karishma Kuenzang |

The feast of St Cecelia this Friday will see a unique mass conducted by a priest who plays the guitar, as more than a 100 city instrumentalists and singers gather with their families at a Bandra church to perform from the pews

The group's celebration at St Vincent Palloti, Marol
The group's celebration at St Vincent Palloti, Marol

Imagine walking into a church, and being part of a service where not just the choir members are performing with their instruments, but the entire space is also filled with musicians performing from the pews. And in this case, even the priest is a guitarist. This isn't your typical mass, but it will be a truly special service at Bandra's St Peter's Church this Friday, on the feast of St Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians.

St Peter's Church
St Peter's Church

Organised by a team of dedicated musicians in its ninth year in this parish, the mass will see musicians and singers, accompanied by their families, come together from across the city with their instruments. This brainchild of Father Alben D'Souza, who is himself a guitarist and will assist Father Clement D'Lima this year, goes beyond the usual stipulated choir or keyboard player on stage to include everyone in the space. So far, 20 violinists, 15 guitarists, six trumpet players, seven saxophone players, two flautists, and a harp player have already signed up to come.

Musician Mass

"It was born out of the desire for like-minded people and well-wishers to come together and do something. And also because we wanted to do a performance in which musicians' entire families could also come as they usually can't attend private gigs or those at pubs, which you have to play to survive as a full-time musician in the city," says Ernest Flanagan, who has been playing the guitar, keys and bass for the last 40 years in the city. The other founding members include Marie Paul, Michael and Sunita Noronha, Roland Fernandes, Felix Flor, Wendell Daniels, Raymond Alberquerque, Ralph Xavier Pereira, Vivek Sundera and Meldan D'Cunha. Today, Romi Furtardo is the chief, Roland Fernandes the treasurer, while Karen Vasvani designs the poster.

Flanagan has also penned the lyrics for the final hymn of the evening, the Hymn to St Cecilia, composed by  Clarence Dias.

Alannah Carol Fernandes
Alannah Carol Fernandes

Besides this, some common joyful hymns have been put together that also talk about thanksgiving, the chords, and lyrics for which will be displayed on screens at the church. And as more than 100 musicians have already confirmed their presence, aged between five and 90 years, this year, violinist Alannah Carol Fernandes, who has set the music for the service, is planning to seat the guitarists together, the wind instruments in another section, and so on, for ease of accessibility.

"For the Catholic community, music is an essential element of any mass. We believe that God gave us music so that we can pray without words. We will pray for musicians around the world. But it's not just about us. Music builds ties," says Fernandes about the open-to-all mass, adding that they also want younger musicians to take up this legacy via this mass. "And music is their legacy," she explains.

The music continues after the mass, as they shift to a nearby area and have a small get-together - this year it's a biryani party - while the community and their families socialise. The musicians will also have a jam session at the gathering.

ON November 22, 5.45 pm
AT St Peter’s Church, Hill Road, Bandra West

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