|About MMA and Its History
The Madras Musical Association for the first time is getting into cyberspace and it
makes me all excited. This is something the founders would never have imagined.
Nor would they have imagined that the singing body they found would stand the
test of time.
The MMA was founded in St Andrews church (the Kirk) in 1893 by a group of
European expatriates who loved to sing together. The first patron and president of
the association was the Governor of madras and signor Aloysio an Italian who was
the choir director of the Kirk was their first choral conductor. It was later registered
with the societies act and a committee was formed with office bearers’ life
members and a full fledged constitution. The governor continues to be the patron.
The primary goal of the Madras Musical Association is to project perform
And propagate western music. So even though the choir was the main
Arm of the association, it also indulged in presenting instrumental music, comic
operas and musicals besides co- sponsoring various musical presentations with the
consulates and embassies.
The MMA was very active and there were a minimum
of four presentations every year.
Mr Justice Coutts trotter, Miss Isles, Mr. R.J.C.
Bristow, Mr. Martin, and Sir Murray Coutts-trotter where the prominent
Mrs Higginbotham played a very important role in the administration
and in music.
Somewhere in the early fifties, Mr Handel Manuel took charge of the directorship
of the choir.
It slowly transformed from being an all European organization to an
organization where Indians played the major role. This was also true because after
independence many of the Europeans either left our shores or went into hill stations to lead retired lives. The choir and the association were progressing greatly.
In a nutshell the MMA was flying high. During this period I cannot forget the
contributions by Musical giants like Victor Paranjothy, Robin Benjamin, Rita
Saldana, Richard and Prabhu Singh, John and Leslie Vigor. Lionel Vedamanickam, John Rajanayagam, Joseph Baynes, George Subramanyam, Alice Manuel and Sharadha Shcaffter. (A few who come to mind). Mr Handel manual was the be all and end all of the Madras Musical Association.
One of the last highlights of this era and a smash hit was “Fiddler on the roof” with Joseph Baynes as a show stopper.
In 1982 after a general body meeting when the top Leadership of the committee of
the MMA changed hands Mr Handel Manuel in spite of many pleas from the office
bearers and choristers resigned from the MMA and formed the madras
Philharmonic choral society.
The association was splintered
Suddenly the Kirk which had been our home for almost 90 years asked us to
leave the premises. The MMA was left without a home, and some of its
Finally the Emmanuel Methodist church and the home of Solomon and
Martha Howie became the venues for rehearsal. Kalyan Subramanyam and
Jabez Janagaraj were the conductors. This was when the musical “South
Pacific’ was preformed with full orchestra and the then governor Khurana in
The late Dr.Mathuram Santosham was the president then. Dr
Chandran Devenesan the vice president and Mr. Frederick Ebenezer the
SecretaryDue to ill health in 1986 Dr Santosham Senior had to resign from the committee
and Mr Clement Felix took over as president, with George Subramanyam as vice
president and Solomon Howie as secretary. Mr Haricharan Das who had done
yeoman work for the association continued as treasurer.
In 1990 Mr Clement Felix stepped down from from the presidentship and the
mantle fell on yours truly. Keith Gammon was the Vice president Solomon Howie
the secretary, Haricharan Das the treasurer and Samuel Grubb the music director.
would not be an understatement to say that he MMA was in the lowest of dregs.
Christobel Howie was crowned miss India in 1991. The MMA presented “Over the
rainbow” a musical with excerpts from various Broadway and west-end musicals
featuring Christobel. The show was directed by Mithran devanesan with Rajeevan
David in charge of music and Samuel Grubb conducting. It was a runaway success
packing 3 full shows at the music academy with the governor in attendance for one
I will always be thankful to my good friend Vinoo Mammen for
sponsoring it. Thus started the rebuilding if the Madras Musical Association.
From an organization which was a castaway then, with a struggling choir of 6
voices initially, we have now, a centrally located office and library, a dedicated
committee and a 100 strong choir which has won the praises of choral directors
like sir David Wilcox, Ron smart and Paul Leddington Wright. The choir has made
5 overseas tours and I am proud to state that the choir has been invited for the pre
event cultural festivities of the 2012 Olympics in London England. The choir is
blessed with excellent leadership like Augustine Paul as music director, Edwin Royas Accompanist and Ebenezer Arunkumar as assistant music director.
With great humility I must thank the almighty for His guidance and an excellent
array of personnel who helped in the process of rebuilding.