Continued from part 2
The RR Sabha celebrated its Silver Jubilee in 1956, perhaps tracing its inception to the time when the property was acquired. Sir CP Ramaswami Iyer presided over the celebrations while TT Krishnamachari inaugurated a festival comprising 17 concerts. The Sabha’s AGM of 1955 recorded that “the governing body feels extremely proud to state that the Sabha though started in 1929, has officially completed successfully its 25 years of existence by usefully catering to the needs of members and the general public in the field of music and fine arts and that it has attained great popularity and distinction and stands as a model institution.”
With income steadily increasing, the Sabha made bold to renovate its building in 1958. The new Hall was inaugurated on September 26th by Dr PV Rajamannar then Chief Justice of the Madras High Court. A concert by MS Subbulakshmi followed. The new Hall, designed by one Mr Chitnis (who had also given a Carnatic performance once at the RR Sabha!) was the classic model on which all other halls such as the Mylapore Fine Arts and the Vani Mahal were built. It was in the art deco style on the outside with the interior boasting of a ceiling free from pillar supports and covered with insulation boards to provide good acoustics. The stage proscenium arch was in classic Ravi Varma style with the banner showing Gods and Goddesses sporting away. A quaint but spacious balcony was an added attraction. The Hall also had some very fine ‘jaali’ (grille) work on its balcony which let in light and air.
Like most vintage Sabhas of the city, the RR Sabha too boasts of many tales regarding Mali. Two are worth relating here. The first pertains to a violin concert of Mali’s that was advertised as the first of its kind and widely publicized. On the appointed day, a large crowd turned up but Mali did not. The second was a Music Academy Season performance where Mali was billed to perform after DK Pattammal. Mali came in time for Pattammal’s performance and sat through it, for he was a great admirer of hers. Just as she began the tillana, he got up and made to the exit of the Hall. Most committee members thought he was going to the green room to prepare for his own performance. But Mali simply went home. The stories regarding TN Rajarathinam Pillai and Mali run on similar lines whether it be music or otherwise. But when TNR stood the Sabha up once like Mali, he was threatened with a legal notice. The presence of several legal bigwigs on the committee must have strengthened the Sabha’s case. A chastened TNR turned up the next day and performed.
TN Krishnan has held the RR Sabha in great veneration and when he received his Sangita Kalanidhi at the Music Academy in 1980, he thanked the RR Sabha in his speech for having given him his first major concert opportunity in Madras when he was invited to accompany Mali. Similarly N Ramani’s debut as a concert artiste happened here when he accompanied Mali on stage in 1945.