November 10, 2006

Music is their life!

How does a monk live with highway traffic?
Brother Octavian is not a monk. He is a member of the well known religious congregation of Montfort Brothers.
More than a quarter of a century ago, his congregation bought a piece of land in Pallavaram from an Anglo-Indian family, on which stood a bungalow of mud walls.Pallavaram and St. Thomas Mount once had a large community of Anglo-Indians but as they began to migrate, such properties were there for the asking.
They were in the quiet suburbs and though the highway existed even then, the traffic was sparse.
So the brothers decided to locate a unique project that was to be managed by Brother Octavian.
A community of musicians who were visually handicapped.The brothers run an institution for the blind in Adyar -St. Louis - and music has been an integral part of the extra-curricular activities for students and now, part of their education.
So it dawned on Brother Octavian that in banding these talented young men together, training them further and sending them out in to the world as a professional music troupe, their future would be positive.
This vision had to find a place - and it did at the Pallavaram campus.Today, this unique troupe travels to all the corners of the country and has even been abroad.
Music is a full-time profession. Only music.
About 20 artistes gather at the Pallavaram house every day when they are not touring, to practice under the baton of their teacher - also a visually handicapped, trained professional. "They have to practice hard," says the brother. "People invite us not out of sympathy but for our talent and music."
Everytime the troupe has to set off on a programme, it is by a special bus which has space for the artistes, their trucks, their intruments and the accoustic and electrical equipment.
Tons of it moves on the highway.So, being located near a highway had its rewards.
Invitations come from all sides - schools and colleges, temples and churches, clubs and Montfort institutions.
The community lives closeby in compact apartments and all the musicians are paid a salary.
When people retire or decide to chart their own course, fresh talent is inducted.A unique community.

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