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Remember Sam Walsalam, musician and teacher who founded Trivandrum Men’s Chorus and Trivandrum Choral Society.

 

A slender stairway led to a terrace. A couple of potted palms alongside the thatched enclosure introduced in a whiff of inexperienced and alleviated the final sombreness of the place. The décor wasn’t a lot to put in writing residence about however but there was a sure atmosphere. Walled in on one aspect, the sunshine strained in via giant, fairly grotesque cobweb-like shades fabricated from slender reeds of cane. Some try at partitioning made house for a wash basin, a kitchen and the proprietor/cashier’s workplace.

Located within the coronary heart of town at Spencer Junction in Thiruvananthapuram, this room on the prime of the steps, a thattukada (albeit westernised in a way) of kinds, stood on prime of a tiny constructing bordering the entrance nook of the compound of Indian Espresso Home of yesteryear fame. It proved to be a haven for the youth of the ‘70s and ‘80s, together with a few of the regulars on the Espresso Home, who might sit right here undisturbed for hours, discussing their favorite rock bands or socio-political points.

However the rooftop restaurant was not the hang-out of solely these younger rock and roll fanatics. It had an older clientèle too — music lovers of a unique style; buddies of the proprietor who liked Western Classical Music. For Sam Walsalam, the proprietor, alias Sunny Uncle or Annan as he was recognized to buddies, ran the restaurant solely to earn a dwelling.

Sam Walsalam with the Trivandrum Men's Chorus in 1957.

Having graduated from the College of Kerala and completed additional specialisation beneath the Struggle Technical Coaching Scheme on the School of Engineering Trivandrum in 1942, he had labored with the Railways in his early twenties. His all-absorbing love for music introduced him again to his home-town to pursue his ardour — Western Classical Music! The restaurant took care of his wants and it gave him the time and the liberty to give attention to his music, the muse that he nurtured in his coronary heart and soul and saved him going until his final bicycle journey to choir observe on the age of 82.

Household of musicians

Sam was born right into a household of musicians. His grandfather was the famend Malayalam preacher, poet, composer and musician Moses (Mosa) Walsalam Sasthriar, (1847—1916) who composed many Christian devotional songs which might be nonetheless sung in church buildings in Kerala at the moment, aside from a number of classical Carnatic compositions in Sanskrit.

Sam Walsalam

His grandchildren inherited his musical genes and, to some extent, his musical genius. J John (1894—1959), one in all his grandsons, was a composer, lyricist, highly-acclaimed organist and choirmaster who learnt the tonic solfa notation from Ms Wills, the primary organist of Mateer Memorial Church. As his grandfather sang, John would write it down in tonic solfa. He additionally wrote an exceptional variety of particular four-part preparations completely for males’s voices, which had been adopted by Sam Walsalam for his Trivandrum Males’s Refrain.

Richie Walsalam, one other grandson, was choirmaster of a number of church buildings, together with Jerusalem Marthoma Church and Christ Church, in addition to founding and conducting the Moses Walsalam Shastriar Choir.

Sam Walsalam was born on March 21, 1915. Although he all the time loved Carnatic music, it was Western Classical Music that appeared to circulation via his veins. In his early twenties, he joined and sang in Woman Papworth’s choir as a primary tenor whereas additionally choosing up the methods of conducting a choir and coaching voices. He was quickly welcomed by Christ Church because the choirmaster, a place he retained until the very finish of his life.

He went on to discovered two choirs — Trivandrum Males’s Refrain and Trivandrum Choral Society — and educated them to sing Christian hymns and spirituals, Christmas carols or Ardour Week songs and light-weight classical folks songs. He continued as First Tenor or High Tenor, whereas conducting on the identical time, with the Males’s Refrain until the final live performance, his voice (typically within the vocal vary of a sopranist) distinctly audible over the others. The choirs had been his life. In these days, when carbon copies did contain making copies utilizing carbon paper, he used to spend his free time writing (and drawing on) a number of a whole lot of sheets of four-part music with employees notation or tonic solfa. He would cycle all the best way to the YWCA or the YMCA or the WILLS Hostel to hold out his life’s mission of manufacturing high-quality music.

Sam Walsalam

With not a lot worldly wealth to boast of, he was fortunate to search out patronage in Dr Mary Poonen Lukose, gynaecologist, obstetrician and the primary feminine surgeon common in India, who granted him lifelong permission to conduct choir observe as soon as every week and concert events freed from cost on the YWCA auditorium. Maintaining his choirs going sturdy was, nevertheless, a problem as a result of members would depart in pursuit of jobs or research and likewise due to Sam’s zeal for perfection, which meant concert events occurring as not often as three to 4 occasions a 12 months! As Susan Philip, a choir member, reminisced, even a tiny gasp of breath snatched stealthily inside a bar didn’t escape his sharp ears!

Sunny uncle’s voice, his phrases, his music and the picture of him hunched up driving or pushing his bicycle up the steep Museum street until only a few days earlier than his passing stay etched without end within the hearts of all his choir members and the music lovers, the particular invitees to his concert events. They bear in mind fondly, listening to the strains of classical music or some discuss on his radio, which was all the time tuned into BBC, whereas passing by his humble, one-room abode above a storage on the junction resulting in the Cliff Home at Nanthancode in Kerala’s capital metropolis.

He handed away on November 21, 1997.

In his remembrance, a collection of his choral music has been uploaded on YouTube. The stay recordings had been made by Bennet Thompson, his nephew, throughout a few of his concert events on the YWCA, a number of many years in the past.

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