The Season 75 Years Ago

The Season 75 Years Ago                      

It is time for yet another December music season. And as usual, the statistics will be churned out about how 60 and more organisations put up 2000 music and dance performances, funded entirely by private initiative, and so on. Way back in 1948, it was a lot easier. There were only three organisations celebrating the arts – the Music Academy, the Indian Fine Arts Society and the Tamil Isai Sangam. That year, a fourth – the Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha (TBGS) at Vani Mahal tested the season waters for the first time. There are sadly no details available about this maiden attempt. For the record, the sabha remained an outlier as far as the season was concerned in later years, becoming an active participant only from the 1980s. 

Rented Homes

Ironically, among the four players, it was only the youngest, namely the TBGS that had a home of its own. The Music Academy was still at Rasika Ranjani Sabha, Mylapore. The Indian Fine Arts Society (IFAS) was holding its events at Gokhale Hall, Armenian Street. The Tamil Isai Sangam concerts were held at the St Mary’s Co-Cathedral Parish Hall, Armenian Street, cheek by jowl with the IFAS venue. The Catholic Centre stands on this site today.

Inaugurations and Speeches

There were certain practices that had become standardised by then across the three organisations and which would be faithfully copied by later entrants. The first of these was an inauguration with a prominent figure in Indian perception being invited to do the honours. At the Academy it was the then Governor of Madras, His Highness Krishna Kumarsinhji Bhavsinhji, Maharajah of Bhavnagar. The Tamil Isai Sangam had its season inaugurated by Omandur Ramaswami Reddiar, the then Chief Minister of Madras. At the IFAS it was Justice ASP Iyer of the High Court of Madras. Thus, the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary had been respectively and rather nicely divided across the three sabhas.

The second aspect was having a musician preside over the annual conference. This had been the practice since inception at the Academy and the IFAS but the Sangam did not adopt it. At the Academy, the President of the Conference was conferred the Sangita Kalanidhi title since 1942 and in 1948, the musician selected for presiding and being so honoured was the veteran violinist Kumbakonam Rajamanikkam Pillai. At the IFAS, though its title of Sangita Kala Shikhamani was yet to come into existence, the musician invited to preside over the conference was Prof. R. Srinivasan, an academic from Thiruvananthapuram who was also well-known for his patronage of the arts.