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J. Cooling Rajaiah: The Christian Tamil composer is the Uncrowned King of Sacred Music

Rajaiah is known to be a talented and a self-taught musician who dedicated his entire life to composing music with a spiritual overtone

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Choir (Representational Image). Image source: www.templenet.com
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  • No wedding is complete without raising a toast to his popular compositions Mangalam Nithya Mangalam, or Mangalam Nithya Pongidavey
  • His piano skills were impeccable and were in great demand in the festive season
  • Apart from being a music composer, he could also deconstruct group performances with accuracy

Even six years after his death on July 10, 2010, J.Cooling Rajaiah is survived by a bounteous legacy of sacred music compositions, which resound in the Tamil Christian community till date. No wedding is complete without raising a toast to his popular compositions Mangalam Nithya Mangalam, or Mangalam Nithya Pongidavey.

Rajaiah is also one of the founder members of Tiruchi’s oldest choir group, ‘The Carollers’. His rousing ‘The Carollers’ March’ remains a stellar rendition during most of the choral presentations during Christmas.

These and other numerous renditions constitute the legendary singer’s great body of work that continues to enthrall and captivate listeners and performers beyond geographies.

Speaking to The Hindu, J. Philip, his nephew, said, “Uncle never left Tiruchi, but his music traveled all over the world.” Philip who took over the family tradition of composing sacred music is himself the founder of Tiruchi-based gospel choir ‘Singspirations.’

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Rajaiah is known to be a talented and a self-taught musician who dedicated his entire life to composing music with a spiritual overtone.

THE HINDU An early photograph of J. Cooling Rajaiah (in suit) at work. Photo: Special Arrangement by The Hindu
An early photograph of J. Cooling Rajaiah (in suit) at work. Photo: Special Arrangement by The Hindu

Talking about how Rajaiah had an affinity for music even as a toddler, Bhaskar, a family member, told The Hindu, “My grandfather used to keep him on his lap when playing the organ when he was a toddler. Later, Uncle would be drawing the scores on the sand as his father took music lessons for others.”

Named after English Methodist missionary Reverend James Cooling,Rajaiah was born on December 5, 1927, to Mr. and Mrs. James William.

Mrs. Louisa, Rajaiah’s sister revealed that his first mouth organ performance was at the age of nine and his first composition was ready by the age of 13. “We all knew our brother had a unique gift for music very early on,” she added.

Rajaiah also had a brief stint in Tamil cinema after he became a member of the orchestra of Gemini Studios in Chennai as a pianist and piano-accordion player.

But what is termed as the turning point in his career was his joining the Madras Jazz Club. Bhaskar iterates, “Uncle got most of his exposure to world music through the Jazz Club.”

In spite of a flourishing career in early years, Rajaiah had to settle for a job in Southern Railways as the competition in the industry was cutthroat.

His piano skills were impeccable and were in great demand in the festive season.

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His compositions were an effortless mix of rhumba and swing element. “He also accompanied the Minstrels and All Saints Church choirs in the rendering of the oratorios, the highest musical offering of choral praise,” reported The Hindu.

Apart from being a music composer, he could also deconstruct group performances with accuracy.

Known as the ‘Mozart of Tiruchi’ Rajaiah’s expertise in interpreting scores also credits him being a man of many talents.

Rajaiah never married and needed complete silence whenever he used to compose music, explained Bhaskar.

He added, “Rajaiah was among the few people who would encourage younger musicians by giving them a platform to perform. Nobody could match up to Uncle, but he was always trying to learn new things from the youth.”

Though Rajaiah stopped composing at the age of 81, his work will continue to inspire many generations to come.

-prepared by Bulbul Sharma, a staff-writer at NewsGram. Twitter handle: iBulbul_

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The Church And Priests Should Go Online: Vatican Experts

We had to learn to listen to younger people who live in that [digital] environment, and to understand from them what they find helpful and supportive

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Monsignor Paul Tighe from the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications talks to the Associated Press during an interview. VOA

Priests should get online if they want to connect with people who may no longer attend church but can still be reached via social media, the Vatican’s digital expert said Tuesday.

Monsignor Paul Tighe, who helped develop Pope Francis’ online presence, urged Catholic clergy across the world to embrace social media to reach believers and nonbelievers.

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A Facebook start page is shown on a smartphone in Surfside, Florida. Aug. 21, 2018. VOA

“Young people are, unfortunately, less present in our churches,” Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, told Reuters at a technology conference in Lisbon.

“Social media is a mechanism that allows us to engage in conversations, to engage with people who otherwise would never come across us and who we are.”

Pope Francis has nearly 18 million Twitter followers and his posts are widely shared, but not all church leaders are following his example, Tighe said.

“In the beginning, some Catholics said social media was nasty and that we should stay out of it,” he said.

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Pope Francis delivers the Urbi et Orbi (to the city and to the world) blessing at the end of the Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Apr. 1, 2018. VOA

“We have been trying to convince them that the digital arena is a hugely significant part of people’s lives.

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“We had to learn to listen to younger people who live in that [digital] environment, and to understand from them what they find helpful and supportive.”

It was the Irish bishop’s second year at the annual Web Summit — Europe’s biggest technology conference, which this year brought together 70,000 entrepreneurs and guests, including U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. (VOA)