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Musical memorial for renowned pianists

As a seven-year-old in 1960, Zinnia Khajotia, remembers attending piano classes in the sea-facing Firdous Building on Marine Drive.

mumbai Updated: May 27, 2012 01:30 IST
Reetika Subramanian

As a seven-year-old in 1960, Zinnia Khajotia, remembers attending piano classes in the sea-facing Firdous Building on Marine Drive.

The hour-long piano class conducted by the couple, Olga and Jules Craens, still inspires the Colaba resident years after the death of her teachers.

"Jules used to carry me and place me on the piano stool, while Olga taught us to swiftly move our fingers on the piano," said Khajotia, who along with other students and associates of the Craen family are planning to hold the "Olga and Jules: A Celebration and Tribute' evening early next year.

While Olga, a world renowned pianist, made her mark in Europe before moving to the city to cultivate musical talent in Bombay in the 1930s, her husband, Jules, founded the Bombay Symphony Orchestra and broke new ground in the city's western classical music scene. "Every time the students fumbled, Jules used to tell us, 'You are playing for that one person in the audience who will know that you played something wrong'," said Khajotia.

The celebrations will include musical interludes by successive musicians and involve dialogues with former students, artists and cultural personalities.

"We are looking for assistance from all sources to receive material such as photographs, concert recordings and documents of the couple to compile a storyline, tracing their lives," said Blossom Mendonca, former pupil of Olga Craen and foundation member. "Several octogenarians have written back to us, sharing their experiences with the musical couple in their early days in Bombay," she added.

As part of the celebrations, the foundation members are also planning to launch the 'Olga and Jules Craen Young Musician of the Year' award, wherein one Indian candidate, chosen from an instrumental or vocal discipline, will be selected and trained for a period of one year. "During this period, the selected candidate will be mentored by renowned musicians and provided professional assistance in the form of workshops and scholarships to hone their skills," said Anthony Gomes of Furtados that help in the selection process of the candidates. The last date for the submission of applications for the award is June 15.