Bach’s Magnificat in Bangalore and Chennai

Among the first few institutions of Higher Education in India to offer a bachelor’s degree in Western classical music in combination with Psychology and English studies, Christ University, Bangalore, is dedicated to situating practise-based learning at the core of all disciplines. The triple major program offers a curriculum that synergises the analytic, creative, and aesthetic aspects of the three major disciplines.

The course combines music notation, theory, ear training, sight singing, effective practice and performance anxiety skills and builds on this by adding practical uses of tonal harmony across all western tonal styles and the art of interpretation. The course then culminates in core skills which contextualise the history and philosophy of Western Music. Students major in voice or piano for six semesters. Music transcends academics, and the programme is structured so as to enrich lives, thus making a difference through music to achieve integrity through aesthetic performance.

While the students of the Western Music department are trained through a meticulously planned curriculum and a rigorous pedagogy that combines theory with praxis, the University encourages community engagement as part of its commitment to experiential learning. The Madras Musical Association (MMA) Chennai, orchestra and choir were the ideal community partners for a collaboration of this magnitude. The students of Christ University’s Music department had the rare opportunity and experience of performing with a string ensemble.

Collaborating across two cities, conductors Augustine Paul, Andrey Morozov and Jay Rajendra Raythatha conducted a 170 strong ensemble that consisted of members ranging from the age of 12 to 74. The concert was held in Bangalore (6 November 2022) at the main auditorium of Christ University’s Central Campus and the following weekend, in Chennai (12 November 2022) at Women’s Christian College auditorium. In a celebration of Western classical music, the concert included J.S. Bach’s Magnificat in D, a rarely performed piece in the Indian context and W.A. Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major by pianists Azriela Maben and Jeremiah Christopher, alongside Bach’s Brandburg concerto and other choral works performed by the guest choirs in the respective cities.

To promote access to a conventionally niche genre of music through a novel experience both educational and enjoyable the concert was free of cost, by registration only. Drawing an audience of a close to two thousand this objective was definitely met.

“Ceaseless work, analysis, reflection, writing much, endless self-correction, that is my secret.” — Johann Sebastian Bach

It was in the spirit of these words that the performance of Magnificat was conceived.

A herculean task such as conceptualising, visualising and executing an endeavour of these proportions required meticulous planning and began as early as in March 2022 in a meeting between Augustine Paul, the Music Director of MMA Choir, Chennai and Prof. Jay Rajendra Raythatha, Christ University, Bangalore. Both the University and the MMA benefited mutually from this venture experientially and in the promotion of Western classical music. Rehearsals were held in each city with students and professors travelling on weekends to rehearse, strengthening ties built on a shared passion and quest.

Going forward the department of Western Music wishes to foster a tradition of annual performances where students collaborate with other musicians, providing them with a live experience of performance spaces and processes and build sustainable network and provide the faculty with performance space towards the notion of Teacher Practitioners.

By Jay Rajendra Raythatha. A classical Pianist and a Music Educator, Jay Rajendra Raythatha specialises in Classical and Romantic era’s piano repertoire. An Assistant Professor and the Head of Piano at the Department of Music – CHRIST (Deemed to be University), Bangalore, he graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London, UK with a Master of Music degree in Piano Performance and Research. With a degree in Engineering and a musician by passion Jay has given various performances across London and India, which includes solo piano recitals, performances with the Indian National Youth Orchestra, to name a few.