Fr. Lourdino Barreto

 

The 2002 Vincent Xavier Verodiano Award was conferred posthumously  on Fr. Lourdino Barreto in recognition of his creative interpretation of Western and classical Indian music, his integration of the two musical lineages in contemporary score, and for his mastery over such integrative interpretation.community.

 

 

LOURDINO BARRETO -- PRIEST-TURNED-MUSICIAN REMEMBERED

BY J. LOIOLA PEREIRA     [THE NAVHIND TIMES * JAN 23, 1998]

HE STOOD TALL. Six feet plus. He walked tall, as if busy with lofty things. He lived tall. Above daily trifles. Finally, on January 24, 1997, at the age of 58, he succumbed. And he was lowered into a grave. In the process, Goa -- nay, India -- was bereft of some 'tallness'. For Lourdino Barreto towered above the rest. Particularly, in the arena which brought him so much acclaim: western music.

"What good can come from Galgibaga, a forgotten, woody hamlet in South Goa," a city-bred Panjimite might ask. The answer is Lourdino Barreto. Without any noteworthy musical traditions in his ancestry, Barreto rose like a royal lotus blossoming in marshy waters.

This Galgibaga lad soon became a familiar sight in the corridors and auditoriums of the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music and the National Conservatoire in Rome, in the late 'sixties. Having graduated with distinction in Gregorian Chant, Piano and Composition, he defended his doctoral thesis (titled 'Aesthetic Indian Music as a bridge between Christian and Indian Religious Music') with such aplomb that his guide, Prof Giuseppe Cianfriglia, coaxed him to top his brilliant academic career with a further two-year course of Virtuoso.

But Lourdino, the priest, turned down the invitation, as he considered that to be of little practical use to his priestly ministry after he would return to Goa.

His works, some of them based on Indian 'Ragas', have been performed by various orchestras and musical ensembles in cities like Rome, Lisbon, Baltimore, Buenos Aires, to mention but a few. A couple of these performances were beamed onto our television screens, thanks to the Star TV network. He himself was invited to give violin, piano or organ recitals in Italy, Switzerland, Austria, England the the United States of America.

Back in India, after having taught music in the minor and major seminaries of Archdiocese of Goa, he held till his premature death the prestigious post of director of the western music department of Goa's Kala Academy.

It is interesting to note that his appointment to that government post did not involve any of the cumbersome procedures usually connected with such events. Not for him the interview, the godfather. Fr Lourdino did not even apply for the job. It was the government that sought him out, requesting the bishop of Goa to "permit Fr Barreto to accept the said post", because the authorities concerned felt that "Fr Barreto's service in the field of western music will be very beneficial to Goans and he will certainly create a good name for the Academia in the cultural map of India..." (excerpts from the letter addressed in 1977 to Bishop Raul Gonsalves by Ms Shashikala Kakodkar, the then chief minister of Goa and chairperson of the Kala Academy).

Barreto's multi-faceted musical talent took him from one field of action to another. Besides coordinating the musical education given by his department, he formed the Goa Philharmonic Choir, which gave recitals regularly over the years, accompanied by the Goa Symphony Orchestra, also directed by him.

His choir interpreted western, Indian and Goan choral music, besides staging a few operettas, broadway musicals and a full- length opera, Verdi's Il Trovatore. This musical ensemble had also the privilege of being invited to participate in international choir festivals in Rome and other capitals of Europe, having won accolades from audiences world wide.

This is not to speak of the highly successful tours the group made in our own country, covering Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram. After a performance of the Goa Symphony Orchestra in Mumbai, back in 1985, the music critic of the *Sunday Observer* then remarked: "In having its own wind and percussion sections, the orchestra has done better than our Bombay ones." (SO, Sept 22, 1985.) Some of the unforgettable stage performances under Barreto's musical direction were: Mikado, Wizard of Oz, Oliver Twist, Fiddler on the Roof, Sound of Music, My Fair Lady and Orphaeus in the Underworld.

At the time of his death -- after a brief illness, following renal failure -- his heart and mind were set on his choir's impending visit to Vienna, later in the month of May. They had been invited to represent India at the Franz Schubert International Festival, organised to commemorate the second birth centenary of the celebrated musical composer from Austria. The Goa Philharmonic Choir was to give three full recitals in Vienna. The visit had to be cancelled, for no one else, obviously, could replace the maestro.

For some time, Fr Barreto was the president of Goa's Diocesan Commission for Sacred Music, having himself helped bring Konkani sacred music to international standards, through his outstanding compositions and choral arrangements. A similar contribution he made to Goan folk music, while, thanks to his expertise in contrapuntual and chromatic harmony, underwent new and revolutionary forms and execution, causing international contemporary composers to sit up and take note.

To listen to his imaginative *Salve Regina* or *Sam Fransisku Xaviera*, or to his Debussy-like treatment of *Dogi Tegi Beatini* (a Konkani 'dulpod') or again to his highly intricate *Raghupati Raghava Rajaram* just to mention a few of his inimitable creations was to experience the indescribable and the sublime.

In the academic field, Fr Barreto was also the chairman of the board of studies for western music of the Goa University and an adviser to the central government for the musical formation of the army, navy and air force bands across the country. To him goes the credit of getting the Goa Board for Secondary and Higher Secondary Education to include music as an operational subject from Std VII to XII. He himself prepared the text-books and undertook the training of music teachers in schools, something for which he will be long remembered. At a world congress for choir conductors held in Rome, Fr Barreto was described as "the best musicologist East of Suez".

Besides his countless musical compositions and arrangements for choir or orchestra, Fr Barreto published several articles and books. They were most studies and anthologies of Goan folk music in its various forms. And, as if it were his swansong, he left us one month before he died an audio cassette of his music, interpreted under his baton, but the Goa, by the Goa Philharmonic Choir, the first and the list of its kind.

Someone once remarked to him that he was cut for higher things and that he would do better if he settled abroad, like Zubin Mehta. Fr Barreto is said to have answered, in his typical laconic way: "Bloom where you are planted".

And this is a tribute to the 'tallness' that Fr Barreto was in our midst, where he was planted. By remaining in this low-land, as far as western music is concerned, he gave it height. And the world took notice.

May Goans and Indians in general continue to draw inspiration from this unrepeatable phenomenon called Lourdino Barreto. And grow tall. Even as the great maestro is now absorbed in the eternal heights, swelling a perennial Hallelujah chorus.

 

 

Fr. Lourdino Barreto's measure of greatness laid invested in the courage of his conviction: "Bloom where you have been planted." And bloom indeed, he did. While recognition in his lifetime may not have been proportionate to his extraordinary genius, the man, nevertheless, towered above his contemporaries, leaving behind an in-duplicable legacy. I recall his letter to the editor of the Navhind Times which appeared on September 3, 1975. The letter was in response to an interview of Mr. Ansther Lobo, under the caption: "A Musical Scientist". That letter, like a meteor, instantly illumined my obscure understanding of the essence of music. -Dom Martin

 

 

A Musical 'Scientist'

Sir, - This has reference to the interview with Mr. Ansther Lobo under the heading "A musical scientist", on August the 17th. It reads: "Prof. Lobo is combating the philosophy that music can be made out of noise and not sound . . . . He is also attacking the 3000-year old belief that music is nothing but a conglomeration of arbitrary notes". Mr. Lobo is introduced as a "doyen of Western classical music who is equally conversant with Indian classical music". To which music does Mr. Lobo refer to? The Western music is tonal and harmonic, and it has taken its path of development on harmony, counterpoint and orchestration all based on affinity of notes between themselves, with their own logic and order. On the other hand, the Indian music which is modal and melodic, has studied the relationship of notes and their subdivisions in a way as no other musical systems of the world. That analytical study gave rise to an indefinite number of ragas, each one with its own emotional character and that from the time of Matanga.

Mr. Lobo, "a conversant with Indian classical music" should know how old this author is. Mr. Lobo propounds that the "classical music rests on the foundation of the basic natural laws" . . . but "he asserts and says that in the inevitable clash between consonance and dissonance, the former has to triumph and the result is music". Which are the natural laws that Mr. Lobo refers to? Is nature all monotonous? Is surface all level? Are the waters of the sea and rivers all stagnant? Oh no! And likewise is music; there is room for calm consonance, for hard dissonance, and for rough noise altogether. The question is not of one prevailing over the other, but of each one contributing its own way to the world of music.

Mr. Lobo presents his discoveries in acoustics. He even calls himself a second Galileo and a second Newton in music. Where is the revolution Mr. Lobo introduced in music? In theory books? Music is not theory nor research work, not even of a mathematical or astronomical category. Music is essentially language, the language of soul, the spiritual and emotional language; those are only subsidiary contributors of its main intent.

While expressing his views on beat music, Mr. Lobo makes all the same imbalanced statement. How much does he know of the beat music to say that it "has no norms, no forms"? Will Mr. Lobo presume to be equally doyen of beat music? His argument that those who do not know music can play beat music will be enough to deny to that music the character of musicology? How is it that folk music known as "music par excellence" is accepted as a prize possession of those who do not know music at all? His statement that "beat musicians do not require training at all" is simply ignorance of the fact.

FR. LOURDINO BARRETO
Saligao

The Navhind Times, September 3, 1975

 

 

Gross Injustice

 Sir: Goans are a peculiar ethnic group. They are as noted for their traits as they are reputed for producing polymath geniuses, some of whom have made it all the way up to the gallery of world heroes. And while the stature and achievements of those in the forefront are being promulgated in the prominent columns of a newspaper, the cerebral characteristics of the lesser known have been fortuitously revealed and recorded in such unreserved columns as the 'Readers' Views'. There was one instance many years ago when Mr. Ansther Lobo was interviewed by the Navhind Times. Certain discordant notes which the 'scientist' Mr. Lobo made in context with his experiments in synthesizing western and eastern music were, underscored and attuned by a relatively unknown reader: Fr. Lourdino Barreto. I had not heard about him before that, but the rhythmic pulse of his contentions were of such timbre as could only have come from the notes of a maestro. In the subsequent years, I began to hear more of him; his appointment as Director of Academia de Musica, and the operas and operettas which he conducted with remarkable competence. But now I read that his services have been terminated, and his termination itself becoming an issue involving him, the Secretary of the Kala Academy and the Government. As far as this issue is concerned, time shall determine who was the better virtuoso; time being the greatest virtuoso in Truth's concert hall. Meanwhile, it shall suffice that I quote some lines which I saw displayed at the desk of one sincere, retired advocate residing at Altinho, Mapusa: "There are two kinds of suffering. Suffering which comes from the Justice of God, and that which comes from the injustice of men."
Dom Martin

O Heraldo, February 19, 1981