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Carnatic ragas from the pulpit

By K. Santhosh



Fr. Paul Poovathingal

THRISSUR, SEPT. 13. The hymns he sings at the pulpit are based on Carnatic ragas. Strains of the tanpura mingle with the sermon at the Holy Mass performed by Fr. Paul Poovathingal of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI).

Fr. Poovathingal, a disciple of K.J. Jesudas, Karaikudi Subramanian and Vaikom Jayachandran, claims to be the first Christian priest to secure a Ph.D. in South Indian classical music. His thesis was on `Christianity and Carnatic music'.

Fr. Poovathingal will present a Carnatic vocal concert, titled `An Evening with the Singing Priest', under the auspices of the Thalam Cultural Trust here on September 17. He will be accompanied by C. Rajendran (violin), Sanoj Poongad (mridangam) and G. Manoharan (ghatom).

``Right from childhood, I've been attracted to Carnatic music,'' Fr. Poovathinkal says.

After taking basic lessons from Sodaran Bhagavathar, C.C. Chummar and K.L. Peter, Fr. Poovathinkal went to Bangalore to study under V.K. Krishnamurthy. The priest took advanced music lessons from T.R. Subramaniam and Guruvayur Manikantan.

Debut performance

His debut performance (`arangettam') was at the Madras Music Academy. He has also performed before the legendary singer, M.S. Subbulakshmi. ``It was an unforgettable experience,'' Fr. Poovathinkal says.

He has studied vocology at Colombia University.

``Voice culture, an important aspect of the study of music, is mostly disregarded in South India. The western method of voice culture is akin to the system Tyagaraja mentions (`Natihridkandarasana...') in the composition, `Sobhillu Saptaswara'. The science of vocology offers insights into voice modulation, movements of the tongue and singing in the upper octave (`tara sthayi'),'' Fr. Poovathingal says.

He has devised a new training method combining music, yoga and meditation.

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