TRIBUTE TO MAESTRO FR LOURDINO BARRETO!

CLASSICAL: The Portuguese contribution to music was the organ. Goa is one of the few states which has several outlets selling musical instruments, the most famous belong to the Furtado brothers who not only sell musical instruments but also train young people who want to learn music.

By Tony Martin Barreto

Among the pioneers in promoting western classic music was Fr Lourdino Barreto, who had a room above the San Tome Chapel in the Fontainhas district of Panaji. He trained hundreds of musician for the Trinity College Cambridge exam.

ON March 14, 2022 the Galgibaga Parish hosted a concert at the St Anthony’s Church in Galgibaga to celebrate the rare brilliance of Maestro Fr Lourdino Barreto. The concert is a tribute to Fr Barreto by some of his students and lovers of western classical music. The first part of the concert consisted of requiems for the soul of Goa’s rare gem Fr Barreto. The second part featured a fine selection of his soulful liturgical compositions rendered by his students and western classical music lovers.

Here is my tribute to the late Reverend Maestro Fr Lourdino Barreto.
MAESTRO Lourdino: International musical giant’s death descended slyly on a dark Friday afternoon on January 24, 1997 drawing curtains on a period of wondrous creativity, unflinching commitment and tremendous personal growth. Maestro Lourdino Barreto, music’s international superstar, was dead. A beautiful innings cut short prematurely, leaving a vacuum that can, at best, only be regrettably felt by music connoisseurs.
Maestro Lourdino Barreto was born with an “inner feeling” for music on February 11, 1938 in Galgibaga, a sleepy village in South Goa. From a rural youth, fond of tickling the ivories, he went on to become a formidable musicologist with international acclaim. At a World Congress organised in Rome for conductors and maestros, Fr Barreto was described as “the best musicologist to the east of the Suez canal.”
A graduate cum laude in Gregorian chant, composition and piano, he earned his doctorate for his thesis “Aesthetics in Indian Music” and attempted a synthesis of western classical and Indian music. His creative interpretation of Western and Indian music and integration of the two musical lineages in contemporary score through his mastery of the interpretation was highly appreciated in scholastic circles.
The first traces of Fr Barreto’s brilliance in music were seen in the auditoriums of the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music and the Conservatoire in Rome in the late sixties. He taught music in the minor and major seminaries of the Archdiocese of Goa. He also served as the chairman of the Goa Diocesan Commission for Sacred Music. During that short spell, he gave a new direction and vigour to religious music.
His over 100 works, some of them based on Indian raga, have been performed by various orchestras and musical ensembles in cities like Rome, Lisbon, Baltimore, Buenos Aires and many others. Some of the performances even graced the STAR TV network. He has also given organ, violin and piano recitals in Italy, Switzerland, Austria, England and the United States of America.
The astounding depth of his legacy unfolds across a variety of genres. It moved from the sacred to the secular, from the stage to study, from the flamboyant to the sublime. With his expertise in contractual and chromatic harmony he made revolutionary forms of executions that drew him worldwide acclaim.
As a modern conductor he took music to a new high both culturally and otherwise. The world took notice and so did the then government. In 1977 the then chairperson of Kala Academy Chief Minister Shashikala Kakodkar, in a letter to the Bishop, wrote seeking the services of Fr Barreto as director of the Western Music Department of Goa’s Kala Academy: “Permit Fr Barreto to accept the said post, his services in the field of western music will be very beneficial to Goans and he will certainly create a good name for the Academia on the cultural map of India….” He accepted the post and thousands of students were trained in music under his guidance till his untimely death.
While in service he formed the Goa Philharmonic Choir (GPC). Besides staging operettas and Broadway musicals, his choir participated in international choir festivals in Rome and other European cities. An audiocassette of his music interpreted under his baton by the GPC was released only a month before his death. Some of the unforgettable performances under his musical direction were: Sound of Music, Oliver Twist, Fiddler on the Roof, My Fair Lady and Orpheus in the Underworld.
Fr Barreto researched Goan folk music and made important contributions to its progress. He published several books which were mostly studies and anthologies in Goan folk music in its various forms. He has written and published “Goenchem Lok Git” in three volumes which contain both the lyrics and the musical scores that will preserve the Goan heritage for generations to come. In addition to innumerable compositions, Maestro Lourdino has written several articles and books and also produced audio cassettes of songs and operas.
An Indian to the core, he based most of his compositions on the Indian raga. In this manner he brought about the fusion of Indian and Western musical traditions; and it was such music that he expounded before his audiences across the world.
He brought Konkani sacred music to international standards through his outstanding composition and choral arrangement. His inspired treatment of Dogi Tegi Beatini (a Konkani dulpod) is a delight. Again his highly intricate Raghupati Raghav Rajaram is an experience that borders on the sublime.
On the academic front Fr Lourdino was the Chairperson of the Board of Studies for Western Music of Goa University and an advisor to the Government of India for the formation of Army, Navy and Air Force bands across the country. Thanks to Fr Lourdino, music was added as an optional subject from Std VII to XII for which he himself prepared the textbooks.
All said Fr Barreto’s life should not be seen as a one-piece orchestra. He was a keen footballer and a sports lover. He was one of the founders of the Galgibaga Sports Club and St Anthony’s High School, Galgibaga. He also wrote several articles and books.
THE Vincent Xavier Verodiano Award was posthumously conferred on Fr Barreto, recently. Ironically, the State government is yet to honour Fr Barreto for his services, leave alone his genius.Honours or no honours, the legend lives. Etched in the collective memory is the image of Fr Barreto as a tall, strikingly handsome and imposing figure. For the connoisseurs of music, this musicologist will remain a towering genius who put Goa on a new pedestal in the international music arena.

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