A ‘Singing Visionary’ & A ‘Dancing Missionary’ Dr Fr Charles Vas SVD No More at Age 77

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A ‘Singing Visionary’ & A ‘Dancing Missionary’ Dr Fr Charles Vas SVD No More at Age 77. Fr Charles Vas SVD who was the director of Sangeet Abhinay Academy, a religious institution of song and dance in Mumbai, passed away on Tuesday November 30

Mangaluru: He is been called as “A Singing Visionary”; “A Dancing Missionary”; “A Bhajan Chanting Catholic Priest”; “An Evangelist through Dance”; and by many other names- he was none other than Fr Charles Vas, belonging to the Society of Divine Word (SVD) congregation. Fr Vas has been preaching about experiencing God through song and dance, and for him, life has become a “melody of Love” (Prem Ragini), a love song. He has produced 50 plus CD’s of devotional music-Bhajans and Hymns, that have enriched Church singing in different languages. His music and hymns have been the most popular devotional hits in the country especially in Hindi speaking areas. Fr Vas is a Poet, Composer, Musician and Director of various musical events. A number of ballets, music dances and Bhajan programmes exhibited within India and abroad were the fruit of his hard labour. Fr Charles Vas was known for his unique way of presenting God experience through song and dance.

But sadly, Fr Charles Vas SVD who was the director of Sangeet Abhinay Academy, a religious institution of song and dance in Mumbai, passed away on Tuesday, November 30. I had the opportunity to meet Fr Charles while he was in Mangaluru, and Team Mangalorean did an exclusive interview with him, where he shared about his Music, Singing and dancing activities.

Fr Charles Vas is one such prodigy who has imbibed the spirit of music and dance, cultivated a habit of living with musical instruments and has traveled widely both in India and abroad delivering the fragrance of Good News of Jesus Christ through ‘Prem Ragini’- a Dance Music creation of himself. Music and Dance are two skills that go hand in hand -and for that matter, the blending of these two creates wizards, and one such wizard is Dr Fr Charles Vas.

Dr Fr Charles Vas SVD, belonging to the Society of the Divine Word was born Charles Vas was born to (Late) Jacob and (Late) Seraphine Vas on 12th February 1944 in Omzoor parish in Mangaluru Diocese and grew up in an idyllic and silvanic environment. Being the fourth child in the row, Fr Vas has one brother who is a High Court lawyer in Mumbai and three sisters, of which two of his sisters are religious nuns. As a child, he played side drums for the village band, sang in the Church Choir and developed a taste for Western music. Charles Vas was ordained a priest in the year 1976, after which he continued his studies and presented his “doctoral” thesis “East meets West” to the Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, Miraj, which awarded him a doctorate in music in 1983.

He began doing the systematic study of guitar and Piano during his philosophical studies at JDV Pune. He began his formal training in Indian classical music under Ramakrishna Joshi, a great exponent of Hindustani music. He graduated in Piano through Trinity College of Music, London under the guidance of late Miss Roberts from Pune and well-known pianist Shanti Seldon. The theme of his thesis runs through the work of Fr Vas, which began in a big way with the launching of Sangeet Abhinay Academy, an institution of Song and dance in Mumbai in 1980. The main aim of the Academy was to spread the message of Christ through the finer arts of music and dance, by locating latent talent, nurturing it and bringing it up to professional standards, particularly among the weaker sections of the society.Fr Charles Vas was awarded “Alankar Shiromani Puraskar’ ‘award in 2006, and Kalakaar Puraskar award in 2008, for his excellence and outstanding contribution in the field of music and dance. In 1983 he got his Doctorate degree from Gandharva University in Hindustani Music; Degree from Trinity College of Music-London in Piano and Western Music; BA Honours in English from Bombay University; and BTh degree from Papal Athenaeum-Rome. During his final days, he was the founder-director of Sangeet Abhinay Academy Mumbai and went around with his troupe of young talented dancers embracing different religions. There are Sikhs, Parsis, Hindus and Muslims besides Christians and their professions range from engineers, doctors, executives to the young students. A wonderful combination and a real blend of cultures indeed.
Fr Charles was the first Indian missionary to blend both Indian and Western music and dance to spread the message of the Gospel. A Musical that was presented all over India named “Ma Tuje Prannam”, a Ballet on the life of Blessed Mother Teresa, was composed and directed by Dr Fr Charles Vas. He was asked to compose this ballet by CBCI on the occasion of the Birth Centenary Celebrations of Mother Teresa in New Delhi.

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  1. Respectful farewell to Fr Charles Vas. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord and let your perpetual light shine upon the departed soul.

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