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Rachol Seminary and Music

 Anything beautiful easily catches our attention. Beauty is something real and inspiring. Pope John Paul II has described the intricate connection between beauty and good: “Beauty is the visible form of the good; the good is the metaphysical condition of beauty” (Letter to artists). Whatever is good and beautiful is enhanced by art. Art is an important vehicle through which the beauty and the goodness in the world are given expression and their subtlety unravelled. An artist who engages in such an inspiring task mirrors the image of God, the Master Artist, who is the source and origin of all beauty and goodness.

In the Christian tradition, art – architecture, sculpture, painting, music, literature, craft – has been a privileged means of the expression of faith and the contemplation of the divine mystery. Among all arts that seek to symbolize the sacred, the Catholic Church allots a pre-eminent place to music (cf. SC 112). Music can take human emotions into areas that other artistic works cannot. It offers the prospect of transcending this worldly existence. The rich and varied treasures of the Church’s repertoire of sacred music, beginning from its origins in the Jewish synagogues, through the mellifluous chants, right up to the contemporary indigenous music of different cultures, speaks volumes about the contribution of this specific art to nourishment of the faith, hope and love of believers down the ages.

The Patriarchal Seminary of Rachol has made an immense contribution to the formation, sustenance, promotion and dissipation of music in Goa and in the world. Rachol has always been a guiding light in the field of musical education in the Archdiocese of Goa and Damão. Examinations of the candidates aspiring for the post of Mestre di Capella (Choir Master of the parochial church) were conducted by the Seminary. The Seminary of Rachol, with its steadfast orientation towards the art of music, has yielded many eminent musicians, who have acquired fame, both in India and abroad. Missionaries who have travelled to virtually every part of the world from this priestly cradle have carried with them their musical basis, received in the Seminary, due to which the proclamation of the Gospel has received greater efficacy.

In keeping with the directives for the renewal of Liturgy given by the Council, great importance is given to the teaching and practice of music in the Seminary (cf. SC 115). As the Council Fathers greatly desired (cf. SC 116), Gregorian music occupies pride of place in the program of the Seminary. Perhaps this is the only Seminary in the country, which has a course in Gregorian Chant in its curriculum. Classical polyphony and Goan music is also given due importance in the musical and liturgical formation of the future priests. Through specific academic courses, the seminarians have the opportunity to study the basics of music Solfeggio, Theory and other aspects of liturgical music. They can put their knowledge into practice through participation in the religious, choral, orchestral and other musical activities organized all through the year. In the afternoons, during their free time, the students have the option of learning various instruments of their choice, ranging from the keyboard to stringed instruments and wind instruments. The Seminary undertook the onerous and challenging task of repairing the century old Pipe Organ that is housed in the Seminary Church. At present, it is the only instrument of its genre that is in functioning condition in the Archdiocese. The seminarians are introduced into the esteem that is required to be shown to this rare and awesome instrument. The program of studies also includes a course in Indian music, which is conducted by an expert in the field. Besides, through bhajans and other varieties of Indian music, the seminarians are given a love for the culture of our roots. 

One of the major vehicles of musical activity in the Seminary is the ‘Choir of Santa Cecilia’. In 1897, Archbishop Dom Antonio Sebastião Valente constituted a choral society in the Seminary under the name of Orpheon Palestriniano do Seminario. Eight years later, the same Prelate gave new statutes to this choral association and placed it under the patronage of St. Cecilia, renaming it as Coro de Santa Cecilia. One cannot but put on record the farsightedness of this Prelate, who had very much at heart the progress of the seminarians. In the past, thirteen seminarians would be elected, by secret ballot, as membros efectivos, from among the general members of the Choir. The former were granted certain privileges in the Seminary. At present, no privileges are accorded to the members of the Choir, but the opportunity to belong to a noble group such as this is itself a privilege. The ordinary members of the Choir, usually sixteen in number, and the Choir Master, are chosen by the Professor of Music. The members meet regularly for practice and render solemnity to liturgical celebrations in the Seminary and, when called upon, also at the diocesan level. They also provide the necessary cultural entertainment on specific occasions such as the annual Seminary Day. Occasionally, as the need arises, other seminarians are also called upon to join the ordinary members of the Choir. Rev. Deac. Doel Menino Dias has been selected to discharge the role of Choir Master for this Academic Year.

The Seminary has produced several eminent priest-musicians in Goa: Frs Agostinho de Rocha, Luis Bruno Menezes, Sebastião Luis, Francisco Domingos Luis, Lelis Souza, Camilo Xavier, João Bautista Viegas, Lourdino Barreto, Martino Fernandes, Bernardo Cota, etc. Others who have discontinued their ecclesiastical studies are known to excel in music, because of the musical formation obtained in the Seminary. Rachol is particularly proud of her alumnus, late Rev. Loudino Barreto, who stood out as a world renowned musician, composer and arranger. At a World Congress of music conductors held in 1988, in Rome, Maestro Barreto, who received his preparatory musical education in the Seminary, was acclaimed as “the best musicologist to the east of the Suez”. 

In 1972, to mark the diamond jubilee of the foundation of the Choir, Maestro Camilo Xavier, a long time Professor of Music in the Seminary, organized a magnificent concert of music, in collaboration with some of the top musicians of Goa. 1997, a grand celebration of the centenary of the Choir of Santa Cecilia was held under the baton of Fr. Bernardo Cota. Archbishop-Patriarch Raul Nicolau Gonsalves presided over the Eucharist, with the Choir rendering the Messe in G dur by Franz Schubert and the Te deum in A by Arnold Furlotti, besides the hymns of the Mass in Konkani. Every year, on the occasion of the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, patron of the Seminary Church, the Choir sings a polyphonic mass in Latin. On various occasions, solemn Vespers are sung by the seminarians. In April-May, the Seminary usually organizes a program of classical music, for which other musicians and singers are invited to join. Last year, the seminarians performed a fiesta of universal and local sacred music at the Chapel of the Monte, Old Goa.

This year, on the 1st of November, at the Eucharist to commemorate the fourth centenary of the dedication of the Seminary Church, a diverse repertoire of music has been chosen. Ex-students of the Seminary as well some lay persons will join the seminarians in rendering praise to God on the occasion. Among other works, one will be witness to and a part of soul-elevating works/arrangements by Camilo Xavier (Ecce Sacerdos Magnus), Lourdino Baretto (Jezu Prokas Voikuttant and Povitr, from Bhagivont Antonichem Mis), Michael Martins (Somia, from Goddvaiechea Kallachem Mis), Alcantra Barros (Sogllim Ami Ektthaim Zaum-ia), Tomas d’Aquino Sequeira (Tuje Adhin Mogall Jezu) and Antonio Cotta-Bernardo Cota (Zoitivont Amcho Dev). As a post-Communion hymn of thanksgiving, the Choir will render the Hindi bhajan Shri Yeshu Bhagvan. The Agnus Dei will be taken from the sublime Missa de Angelis, while the Gloria will also be from the same mass, but with polyphonic choral responses composed by Msgr. Guiseppe Liberto. Maestro Liberto is the present Director of the Sistine Choir in Rome, and has been kind enough to lend his work, originally composed for the Installation Ceremony of Benedict XVI, to be rendered by the Choir of Santa Cecilia. 

May the glory of the Lord resound through the beatific voices emanating from the Seminary of Rachol !

Romeo Monteiro

Golden Verse

1Korintkarank 7:38

Mhonnttôch aplê ankvar hoklê lagim logn zata to borem korta; ani logn zaina to odik borem korta.