The Festive Season Is All About Hearing Joyous Voices

St Augustine is credited with having said that to ‘sing a hymn is to have prayed twice’. In Goa, singing in a choir is important and the choir is not just limited to the church. With the training that the young voices receive, they can venture into any genre of music. During this festive season, music is all around the place and it is a joy to listen to Christmas Carols, Mandos and joyous voices within a span of a few days.

As every church has its choir, there are select singers and musicians who come together to form a choir to sing for special church occasions like weddings, feasts, funerals and anniversaries. Fabiola and group is headed by Maria Fabiola Lopes e Fernandes along with her music students. Her choir comprises of children above the age of 14 years whom she trains in all choir music, carols, Mandos and instrumental pieces. She has a flute, violin, keyboard and guitar as part of the choir. Anyone visiting Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa for the 8am mass will be able to see Fabiola singing for the choir, sometimes with her daughter, Chriselle joining her with the violin.
“For 13 years, my choir has been singing for the 7.15am mass for each novena in the pandal for the Feast of St Francis Xavier. The members in the choir are not just Catholics but Hindus too who love to sing. During this festive season we also visit old age homes and perform for them,” says Fabiola, who has composed the hymn, ‘Dennim Amchi’ which is published on Volume 26 of Devache Bhurgeanchim Gitam, and her next hymn ‘Amchea Bapa Sorgavhella’ will feature in Volume 29 of the same book. The choir also did a studio recording at CCRTV on Christmas carols last year.

‘Divine Voices’ led by Jason Quadros from Moira is currently focusing on the wedding season with his choir of 7 members. The choir has musicians with guitars, keyboards and violins. With the Sacred Music Committee paying close attention to the music sung by the choirs, Jason has been attending the training which is taking place deanery wise. “It is important for church members who are playing music or singing in the choirs for the daily masses. These are instruction by the Bishop through the priests and we have to follow the same. There are songs which couples like but don’t understand that it is a Don Moen song which is a Protestant Hymn. Since they have become more popular, couples often request for these songs. Hence, the hymn list has to be checked in advance by the priests,” says Jason, who follows the Gaionacho Jhelo in Konkani and Joyous Lips in English for hymns.

Alvaro De Assunção Pereira from Utorda and his two daughters Maria Sancha and Maria Gisela, along with Vernon D’Souza and Pacelli Pereira form the voices for the ‘Harmonizers Chorus Utorda’. Through his six member choir he gives utmost attention to the voices and he writes the arrangement of voices for each hymn. “The choir has all four classical voices, soprano, alto, tenor and bass and two violin, piano and guitar. We sing strictly church music only and sometimes we play an instrumental piece with the piano, cello and violin for the mass. Earlier, wedding masses would be held a little later in the day and we could travel far to reach on time from South Goa. Now masses begin at 3.30pm and since many choir members are working, it gets difficult to attend. What counts in the end is the performance and we don’t have any substitutes for the choir as we believe that the standard comes down.” says Alvaro.
Fr Joe Rodrigues is currently Parish Priest at Our Lady of Grace Church, Margao and he manages the ‘Glorifiers’ choir mainly formed with members from in and around far away Mapusa. The choir was formed eight years back and has youngsters as well as singers in their 50s. “The choir sings to the music of two violins, guitar and keyboard. We follow the rules of the church as the parish priests know what’s best for the parish. Since I am now based in Margao, it is difficult to be a part of all the events but the choir is quite independent and confident enough to perform on their own,” says Fr Joe.
Each of these choirs and many more, along with other singers, make festive seasons even more joyous. If the world says that there is music in the air in Goa, these are the folks who play a big part in making that happen. [H]