Fr. Vijayanand - The musician priest who made Moodubelle his second home

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By Dr. Eugene D’Souza, Moodubelle

Moodubelle, 28 March 2010: Originally from Mumbai with roots from Goa, Fr. Vijayanand, a veteran musician priest who worked as a missionary in Uttar Pradesh had a strange tryst with Moodubelle in 1955 and thereafter, he made this village his second home. Fr. Vijayanand was a very close friend of Fr. Dhiranand Bhat (Fr. Charles Alva, brother of late Robert Alva) and Fr. Shraddhanand (Fr. Sebastian Monis of Padubelle). He came to Moodubelle along with the latter in 1955, the year of their ordination. After coming to Moodubelle and staying with the family of late Robert Alva, Fr. Vijayanand was so fascinated with the hospitality and affection of the family that he made it a point to visit Moodubelle practically every year, a practice which he still continues in spite of his advanced age.

Fr. Vijayanand, whose original name is Vincent Fernandes was born on 22nd November 1925 at Dadar in Mumbai. Earlier, his family had migrated from Assonora in the Bardez part of Goa. Vincent had his primary and secondary education in Antonio D’Souza High School in Byculla, Mumbai where he completed Matriculation examination in 1942. He was very keen in pursuing higher education and joined St. Xavier’s College. However, after attending the college for one year, Vincent had to give up his dream of continuing his education and seek employment in order to support his mother and two elder brothers. Hence, he worked for one year in the British Institute of Engineering Technology at Flora Fountain.

As a young boy, Vincent was very keen in music and singing. Originally, the Diocesan Seminary was located at Dadar. Later, this seminary was shifted to Goregaon and renamed as St. Pius X Seminary. Young Vincent was very much influenced by the Diocesan Seminary at Dadar managed by the Spanish priests which also served as the parish. It was here that young Vincent used to attend daily morning Mass and render his service as altar boy. Gradually, he developed an interest in singing and love for music especially the Gregorian chant.

Fr. Vijayanand recounted an incident that brought him into the limelight of music. For the Holy Week Service, the Seminary Choir required some children to sing one of the four voices that has been considered as the highest pitch known as Soprano. The other three lower pitches in order to descent are: alto, tenor and bass. When the Seminary Choir asked for volunteers to sing in soprano voice, Vincent along with other two boys came forward to join the choir that was considered to be a great honour. At that time all hymns were sung in the Latin language and the ability of Vincent to sing in any voice saw him as an integral part of the Seminary Choir for nearly five years.

Vincent’s close association with the seminary either as an altar boy or as a member of the choir had salutary effect on his future. Being influenced by the dedicated Spanish Jesuits and the religious atmosphere in the seminary, Vincent decided to join priesthood and chose North India for his priestly ministry.  Vincent joined St. Joseph’s Seminary at Allahabad in 1945.

As he was good in singing and proficient in music, Br. Vincent had the privilege of conducting choir while in the seminary. Fr. Edmond (OFM), a Canadian Capuchin priest who was in St. Joseph’s Seminary, Allahabad was a great musician and well versed in Western Music and Gregorian chant. He also had developed an interest in Hindustani Music. Realising the potential of Br. Vincent in learning and conducting music, Fr. Edmond suggested him that he should help him in starting a Summer Hindustani Music School.

Br. Vincent grabbed the opportunity that came on his way in the form of a suggestion from Fr. Edmond. As Allahabad used to be very hot in summer, it was suggested that a hill station could be chosen for the months of May and June to start the Summer School of Hindustani Music. This suggestion led to the selection of Naukuchiatal in the Nainital District of Uttar Pradesh as the appropriate location for starting the Summer Hindustani Music School that was inaugurated in 1956, a year after Fr. Vincent was ordained a priest (1955).  Fr. Vincent became the co-founder of the Summer Hindustani Music School assisting Fr. Edmond.

The Summer Hindustani Music School was meant for priests, nuns, seminarians and some lay people who would be trained in Hindustani music for two months. Initially most of those who attended the Summer Hindustani Music School were foreign priests as local vocations were practically negligible. Those who wanted to learn the Hindustani music had to learn the Hindi language.

The Summer Hindustani Music School was affiliated to the Prayag Sangeeth Samiti, Allahabad. After completion of the two months (May-June) Hindustani music course, the candidates were examined in theory and practical by the examiners coming from the Prayag Sangeeth Samiti and the successful candidates were given certificates. Following the death of Fr. Edmond in December 1961, Fr. Vincent, who by then had acquired the Indianized name as Fr. Vijayanand became the Director of the Summer Hindustani Music School.

When quizzed as to the circumstances that led to the adoption of the Indian name as ‘Vijayanand’. Fr. Vincent said that as he along with other two priests from Belle, who had been great friends since their seminary days-Fr. Charles Alva (brother of late Robert Alva) and Fr. Sebastian Monis of Padubelle were working in North India, it was suggested by a Jesuit missionary Fr. Camil Bullke who was doing doctorate at Allahabad University that all three of them should adopt Indian names as it would make easy for them to mix freely with North Indians. Thus, all three of them accepted the proposal of Fr. Bullke and adopted Indian names. Fr. Charles Alva was renamed as Fr. Dhiranand Bhat, Fr. Sebastian Monis became Fr. Shraddhanand Prabhu and Fr. Vincent adopted the new name as Fr. Vijayanand.

Fr. Vijayanand told me that since their ordination on 19th March 1955, three of them-Fr. Vijayanand, Fr. Dhiranand and Fr. Shraddhanand became very close friends and since 1955, Fr. Vijayanand had been visiting Belle more or less every year staying with the family of Fr. Dhiranand whose elder brother, late Robert Alva had been treating Fr. Vijayanand as his own family member.

In 1961, the Summer Hindustani Music School shifted base from Naukuchiatal to a new place Mussoorie in Dehradun District, also a hill station where the school functioned up to 1967. Once again the music school had to search for a new destination and was shifted to Pachmarhi  in Bhopal Archdiocese in Madhya Pradesh. Since 1968, the Summer Hindustani Music School has been functioning at Pachmarhi under the new name Sangeeth Sadhana Mandir.

During the two summer months, Fr. Vijayanand would be busy running and administering the music course. However, during the remaining ten moths he would visit different places such as Houses of Formation and Novitiates where aspirants for priesthood were given crash course in music. This was chiefly to those who could not go to Pachmarhi for two months during the summer to avail the facility of learning music in the regular course.

In 2005, Fr. Vijayanand completed fifty years as the Director of the Summer Hindustani Music School that was later renamed as Sangeeth Sadhana Mandir. Even after retirement, Fr. Vijayanand has not given up his love for music. Meanwhile, he had been travelling to Mumbai, Goa and even Moodubelle to renew old acquaintances and make new friends, especially the young. Due to advanced age and failing vision in one of his eyes since few years, Fr. Vijayanand has been accompanied by Lawrence, one of his nephews from Mumbai whenever he travels from Mumbai to Goa and Moodubelle. While in Moodubelle Fr. Vijayanand would make it a point to visit the families of fellow priests from Moodubelle in North India.

Fr. Vijayanand has a special bond with late Robert Alva’s family. He narrated an incident to manifest this special bond. He said that on the day he had to go back to North India from Moodubelle, Robert Alva who was ailing for quite some time passed away. Fr. Vijayanand postponed his return journey and stayed back to console the family and participate in the funeral of late Robert Alva. Even after the demise of Robert Alva, Fr. Vijayanand had been visiting Moodubelle as usual. He claims that still he is the part of the Alva family and Alphonse, the son of late Robert Alva takes good care of him whenever he visits Moodubelle.

Though 85 years old, Fr. Vijayanand still travels from North India to Mumbai, Goa and this year too he visited Moodubelle. I met him at the residence of Willie Master who had suggested that i should interact with Fr. Vijayanand and do a feature on this versatile priest for Bellevision who had carved out a place in the music world. While speaking to Fr. Vijayanand, i found him to be extremely spiritual, soft spoken, friendly and enthusiastic. He spoke in detail about his childhood and student days, interest in music, his vocation to priesthood and his work in the Summer Hindustani Music School and his regular visits to Moodubelle which he considers as the second home.


Comments on this Article
Prashant D Souza, Pratapgarh Fri, January-18-2013, 2:15
Father vijayanand a great musician, and a very strict director of SSM. left the world this morning 18/01/2013 for the journey to haven.
FR. AKSHAY IMS, MUMBAI Fri, November-26-2010, 5:21
I have no comment but I want to join this summer for the Hundastini music. But I have no Phone number neither email address to contact. Would you please help me to get the contact number and ID. I will be greatfull to you. Thank You
Vijay DCruz, Goa Sun, July-11-2010, 5:19
It was nice to find you on the website Fr Vijay Anand. I was one of those who was doing my three years course in martial music. I do miss the interaction we used to have during summer at Pachmarhi. I wish I can be your student at the summer school of music.
Victor D almeida, Moodubelle/Bahrain Wed, March-31-2010, 10:56
We all are happy to know that Fr. Vijayanand chose our Village as his second home and also to know that he is the best friend of Fr. Charlie who was a humble soft spoken loving individual , I miss late Fr. Faustin Alva very loving person and also well known businessman late Mr. Robert Alva I am very sorry for him on his last stage he suffered a lot we can only say that it is God s wish,we can only pray that their souls may rest in peace.Thanks Fr. Vijayanand your visit reminds us our beloved Fr. Charlie, Fr. Faustin and Robert Alva.
FR. Vijayanand i am very happy to see you in bellevison website. Thanks for your every visit to our house.We are praying for your good health and showers of blessings to your music world. From Fatima,Francis,Joy and Jim(GOANVILLA)
Ronald Sabi, Moodubelle Sun, March-28-2010, 2:54
Interesting to learn about the connection and relationship of Fr. Vijayanand with our parish. Long live Fr. Vijayanand, may God keep you in good health for many more years to come.
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