A Fitting Tribute

The last Maharaja of Mysore was a great patron and scholar of, among many other things, Western classical music. Here, we present snapshots from performances by the SOI Chamber Orchestra, presented in Mysore and Bengaluru in his honour. By Richard Nowell

On the occasion of the birth centenary of HRH Jaya Chamaraja Wadiyar whose contribution to Western classical music is the stuff of legend, the SOI had the honour to perform at the Mysore and Bangalore Palaces in July 2019.

The exploratory visit in May 2019 to both Mysore and Bangalore Palaces was on short notice and a whirlwind. The idea of a speech by Mr. Suntook and a concert by the SOI Chamber Orchestra to celebrate the life of the late Maharaja arrived at a time when we, in the technical team, were pre-occupied with delivering the backstage works in the Jamshed Bhabha Theatre and Tata Theatre along with preparatory works for our first major in-house theatre production that will happen in early 2020.

Mr. Raja Chandra could not have been more accommodating or welcoming and to spend two days with him was a real honour. He set out the vision for the two events, the first in Mysore on 18th July and the second just two days later in Bengaluru.

A full audio and lighting specification was developed, setting out everything we required down to the last cable. Mr. Chandra had coordinated the wishes of the Royal Family and had somehow managed to work out the diary commitments of the many VIPs who would be attending and speaking at the event. The lighting team took the opportunity to ensure that the great Durbar Hall was illuminated to its best effect whilst cameramen checked angles and tested their systems.

The evening event was a moving tribute to a great man. Mr. Suntook’s speech, outlining the person behind the public image, provided an insight into the challenges faced by the Maharaja during some very turbulent years. Yet still HRH managed to perform and write music, take a keen interest in musicology both Carnatic and Western, philosophy, sports, and was a keen collector of books and artworks of all kinds. He studied under Mysore Vasudevacharya and supported local musicians such as Dr. B. Devendrappa at the same time as substantially supporting the Philharmonia Concert Society in London. He was even on the board of the NCPA when it was founded.

This piece was originally published by the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai, in the September 2019 issue of ON Stage – their monthly arts magazine.