The common love for European music brought together a group of both civilian and military Europeans to promote the practice and the public performance of European music. This was the founding of the Bangalore Musical Association [BMA]. The British Music Society was started around 100 years ago, by this small group of Europeans inspired by their undying love for music. To these pioneers is paid homage; were it not for their musical zeal, the BMA would not be in existence today. Music knows no bars, barriers, or boundaries. The BMA is adequate proof. People from all communities and walks of life have been in one way or the other associated with this choir. Father Vampeen and other distinguished names such as Sir and Lady Coleman were part of this Choir.
At the turn of the 19th to the 20th centuries, the BMA was reformed as the British Music Society, bringing together the existing community of musically gifted amateur Europeans, mainly at this time British, and their equally gifted Indian friends who studied and performed together. The membership was eclectic, comprising the Governor, his Government, the armed forces, bankers, merchants and engineers, all actively bound together by music. During the days of World War II, the society used to meet in the house of Mr. and Mrs. Fewkes, who was also the Organist of St. Mark's Church. Later the society met at St. Andrew's Church in the parish Hall on Monday's and Thursday's.
A rich collection of Orchestral, Choral, Part-song, Sacred and Secular music of the great masters and well renowned contemporary composers are shown in the 16 page inventory printed in 1938.
The name of the Society was changed to the Bangalore Musical Association in 1930 and has retained so ever since, popularly known as the BMA. The society has also produced Operettas and sponsored visiting groups, both Indian and Foreign. The present group of the BMA has performed Choral works of the Great Masters of the past and present. Special mention must be made of the performance of Handel's Messiah and Mozart's First Mass with Orchestral Accompaniment. This interpretation has won them laudable acclaim from the press in India . Besides classical renditions, the group has catered to the lovers of light classical, folk and operatic music.
Mr. Walter Nathaniel, an accomplished Organist, was the first Indian Musical Director, taking over from Mr. Van der Holt in 1950. In 1945, he started singing tenor in the BMA - the only Indian choir member. In 1951, he was requested to conduct the BMA as its first Indian Conductor. Essentially a deep-rooted classical musician, he was fluent in any type of music both serious and light. He was an elegant music accompanist and a brilliant conductor. He accompanied many students for violin who appeared for the Royal School of Music and Trinity College of Music exams.
In 1964, Maestro J.T. William Joseph took over as the Director and Conductor of the BMA, and remained so until his death in 1995.
This period saw the BMA excel in its performance and was widely acclaimed by the press. The BMA also began traveling to various parts of India to spread and arouse love for classical, music.
Printed music being difficult to get, the Maestro had no choice but to arrange and compose for the BMA. Most of the musicians of Bangalore were at one time or another associated with this vibrant group. In December 1965, a joint Christmas Carol Service of Roman Catholics, the Orthodox Church, and the Protestants was held. In December 1969 an Ecumenical Christmas program was conducted at the Town Hall, in song, dance and drama, with a massed choir of about 100 voices. Since then the BMA has been organizing festivals for Choirs every year during the Christmas period and sometimes during Easter.
During his tenure as Director and Conductor of the BMA, the Choir widened its repertoire in music, performing some of his choral arrangements of some of the well known Indian Folk Songs. He composed the music for the Kannada Version of the Operetta "Three Penny Opera." He also composed and directed the music for one Hindi and one Kannada Movie. The highlight of his career came when his composition was selected at the International Eucharistic Conference at Geneva.
The was the first of its kind to have a Chamber Orchestra accompanying them at its performances, which was highly appreciated and acknowledged by the Press and the Public.
Taking over after the death of his father, the present Director and Conductor is Ashley William Joseph, the first Indian Graduate with a degree in Music from Manila , Philippines . He conducted the Asian Chorale at the Asian Composers Conference, Manila , and has performed with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra and the Philippine Madrigal Singers. He performed both as Soloist and member of the Choir under world renowned conductors. He has specialized in the performance and composition of ethnic instruments and has attended Master classes in Conducting, Vocal-Techniques, Pipe-Organ and Composition.
He has produced and directed many Broadway Musicals, some of which are, My Fair Lady, Man of La Mancha, Fiddler on the Roof, Oliver Twist, and the Sound of Music. He composed and directed the music for Tom Stoppard's "Rough Crossing". The BMA today consists of people from all walks of life. The age group is from 15 years to 75 years.
A glimpse of the members of the Association will tell you that truly music has no barriers, from students to computer professionals to teachers to journalists to microbiologists to retired people.