“Come sit in my lieder class. Just sit and listen to the senior students,” an opportunity thrown and grabbed by Patricia Rozario at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, by her German lieder tutor. This was a golden chance for the soprano from Bombay who wanted to pursue a diploma in singing at this prestigious music school in the UK. Student of Bhikhoo Mehta in Bombay, Patricia was able to hold her own when she sang a song. At the same time she was totally aware of the ‘catching up’ she had to do with her peers, not only technically but also to build a repertoire and learn basic languages that professional singers must pronounce flawlessly, whether French, German or Italian. Though she graduated with English and French literature from Sophia College, Bombay, her German and Italian needed all the help given.
“I worked hard going to language classes, brushing up all aspects of music, studying, performing, everything,” she rattles off as she chats in Bombay. This Associate of the Guildhall talks of years ago when she had to learn to hear with fresh ears, going to concerts that were either free or affordable, not socializing – just getting up to date with peers with several years’ advantage. She had the opportunity of being one of 12 students at the National Opera Studio in 1979-80.
All the years from September 1975 when she went to the UK, she kept in touch with India as her parents Ena and Collin lived in Santa Cruz, Bombay where she spent her formative years. Before she started teaching regular classes she came every two-three years to perform. The idea of giving back to her native place was at the back of her mind even then. It was in 2009 that she seeded the Giving Voice to India (GVI) programme with her pianist husband Mark Troop. She had several friends who encouraged her to come and teach in India. The first year she asked for auditions, she started with no stops “I’d like to hear anyone who wants to sing,” she told her friend Shireen Isal. Shireen promoted Indian classical music in Europe through Association Sargam. Patricia needed the converse process and Shireen helped gather students across cities in India. She recounts that about 35 – 40 persons turned up for auditions in Bombay, Goa, Pune and Delhi that first year. Mark and she were overjoyed at the enthusiasm and the pool of talent.
Today there are a range of singers who teach, perform and help with the society. Patricia now has a full-fledged charitable trust called Giving Voice Society. It all started with the teaching programme – GVI. Make what you will of the name – it actually gives voice to Indians who did not have a preforming platform earlier.
Mark and she also want to impart expertise to teachers of vocal Western classical music. The couple is gung ho about creating a stage for Indian musicians; train them to be on par with international musicians. For this she helped place some deserving students at the Royal College of Music, Royal Academy of Music, Guildhall School of Music and Trinity Laban Conservatoire for various courses.
Having created a body of talented singers in India through GVS, they started staging operas a few years ago. In order to keep a good standard, they choose operas which are with skill sets and range of the existing talent so that quality is not compromised. The first was The Little Sweep by Benjamin Britten in 2013 with an all Indian cast. Then there was Dido and Aeneas in 2014 that toured Pune, Goa, Mumbai and Delhi. In 2016 Patricia and Mark performed for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House Mumbai. In 2017 Il Matrimonio Segreto of Domenico Cimarosa was performed at the Royal Opera House in Bombay and had 4 sold out shows. This year they put up La Fedeltà Premiata by Joseph Haydn. Once again the cast was predominantly Indian as they want to showcase home grown talent which is one of the raisons d’être of GVS.
Professionally in the UK, Patricia and Mark teach undergraduate students to date. Patricia also runs a class in English song for the Master’s programme at the Royal College of Music (RCM). For 25 years Patricia only concentrated on performing and developing her voice. As a soloist she has sung under top conductors: Pritchard, Solti, Ashkenazy, Jurowski, Belohlavek, Gardiner, Pinnock, Ivan Fischer, Bychkov, Hickox, Andrew Davis and Dennis Russel Davies. Over the past 11 years she has taken serious note of her teaching abilities. She acquired an agent in 1980, and the rest is history, as they say. Her voice has seen her travel on performing tours to Hong Kong, Australia, North American, Canada, Russia and all countries of Europe Union and undoubtedly, India. Mark continues with piano lessons at a senior level.
The Order of the British Empire recipient says she owes her musical journey to her parents to begin with. The course has spread to little towns as well as metro cities – they have taught in Goa, Delhi, Pune, Ahmedabad and Chennai. However, students for their courses also come from Kolkata, Hyderabad, Cochin, Coimbatore and Nagpur. This is a five-day intensive course where select composers’ repertoire are recommended and performed. Master classes are given and Mark always introduces history of music and talks about composers and the songs to engage the student in better understanding and performance.
They have also started a music festival in Goa with the name Da Capo Sammelan. This is the third year of this opportunity to listen to artists of international standing. In 2016 October they heralded the festival and aired the Spanish clarinetist Joan Enrique Lluna. In 2017 the French horn player Timothy Jones, the lead horn player of the London Symphony Orchestra, joined them for this festival. This year the festival concentrated on 10-15 year-old Goans. There were 5 pianists and 5 violinists who performed on 15 October together with 4 GVS singers. On the 16th, Patricia and Mark were joined by Japanese violinist Mika Nishimura for the second concert.
Giving an equal footing to Indians to the greatest possible ability is gaining ground more and more in the classical corridors of Western music. Like Patricia, there is a lot of catching up to do. Taking her example, it IS possible.
… To be continued