6th August,  2006  Volume 13, Issue 4

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    


Soul sounds

Sri Lankan choir, Soul Sounds bagged two silver medals at the fourth World Choir Games (formerly known as The Choir Olympics) concluded in Xiamen, China on July 26.

The local choir, which has been steadily gaining a name not just in Sri Lanka but also in other parts of the world, was awarded the medals in the Gospel and Spiritual and the Scenic Folklore singing categories. Approximately 400 choirs from over 60 countries around the world competed at the games.

Soul Sounds won the silver medals based on the points awarded by an international jury. Earning 78.63 points in the Gospel and Spiritual category and 75 points in the Scenic Folklore category, they missed the 80 cut-off mark which otherwise would have won them two gold medals.

With music direction by the group’s founder Soundarie David and artistic direction from veteran theatre personality cum director - Jerome L. de Silva, the choir gained direct entry into the final round of the games by the distinction of having emerged first runners-up in both the Youth Choir and Solo categories at the Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod in Wales in 2004.

Soul Sounds also had the distinction of being featured in the One World Project in January 2005 to raise funds for the victims of the 2004 tsunami disaster. They sang a single, for the Grief Never Grows Old CD produced by Mike Read.

Soul Sounds shared the stage with stars like Cliff Richard, Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones, Russell Watson (the famed contemporary tenor), Robin and Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees, Steve Winwood, Boy George, and Chicago in this charity project in England.

In celebration and thanksgiving the choir will present a concert to round off their successful season of praise, titled The Glorious Quest on August 13, at 7 p.m. at the Lionel Wendt Theatre.

The choir will recreate the magic of their performance at the World Choir Games in China last month, as well as captivate audiences with their trademark repertoire ranging from gospel and spiritual, secular and contemporary pop music. As always, Christopher Prins will accompany the choir on drums.

There will also be two guest performances by locally acclaimed song-bird Mignonne Fernando and the talented young cellist, Kamani Perera who will perform jazz rhythms on the cello.

The Choir, being the only choir in Sri Lanka to compete and perform internationally, remains committed towards uplifting the standards of choral singing in Sri Lanka and is convinced that through commitment and hard-work they would ensure that Sri Lanka is recognised in the international arena in the sphere of arts, not just in classical Western music, but in traditional folklore as well.

Tickets will be available at the Lionel Wendt Theatre.

Devotion, daring and defiance

A mixture of devotion, daring and defiance marked Concert Aid III 2006 when the Peradeniya Singers and Young Professionals commemorated in Kandy, 250 years of Mozart. The programme of solos, duets, instrumental pieces and choral music encompassed a wide range of themes, rhythm and style. It was as expected, appreciated exceedingly by the music lovers in Kandy — a very select audience.

Commencing on a devotional note with Bach’s Wachet AufSleepers Wake from Cantata 140 composed for Trinity Sunday, which was sung 'a cappella,' the programme included snippets from longer compositions, ranging from Baroque, through Classical and Romantic to contemporary music. These contrasted dramatically with each other, infinitely enhancing the audience’s enjoyment of them. The credit for all this goes indisputably to the diminutive director of the Peradeniya Singers who is also the mentor of the Young Professionals in the concert.

While the music was enticing, edifying and selected with meticulous exactness and care to suit the event and the performers, the acoustics of the venue detracted in some measure the brilliance of the performance, as it unfortunately necessitated the use of microphones. This was all the more evident, when one compares Concert Aid III 2006 with its precursors, the Jubilee Concert and Gaudeamus both of which were held at the E.O.E. Pereira Theatre of the University of Peradeniya where the acoustics are perfect.

The shift of venue from the University Theatre to lure a lethargic public failed to achieve its purpose. It is unfortunate that the two theatres in Kandy with the best acoustics are located on the banks of the Mahaweli, one to the north and the other to the south of the city proper.

All four offerings by the Peradeniya Singers in the first half of Concertaid were devotional or church music, including spirituals. Swing Low Sweet Chariot and Elijah Rock comprised the latter. The themes of both centered on the Prophet Elijah — with the first of these evoking images of Elijah being taken to heaven by a chariot.

The second conjured up visions of the Prophet rocking to a rousing rhythm in defiance of the conventional image of Elijah — as a solemn and white-bearded patriach. The contrast was all the more vivid as it came just after Mozart’s hauntingly moving Ave Verum.

Next came the Young Professionals with Michiko Herath’s sensitive and absorbing rendition of Franz Liszt’s arrangement of Schumann’s Widmung.

Chanson Triste, a sad song, arranged for two cellos and piano, had the sisters Sasini and Savini Chandrasinghe with Namali Premawardhana at the keyboard. This was followed by the best vocal duet for the evening, with the angelic soprano Michiko Herath blending with Renushi Perera’s rich contralto, in the jubilant and resounding proclamation of Balfe’s Excelsior to words by Longfellow.

Concluding the first half of the programme was Mozart’s Andante Con Moto from Sonata no.12, the second movement – a violin solo of exquisite beauty, by Haasinee Andree. The accompanist was Bridget Halpé.

In the second half of the concert, at the keyboard was Dhanushya Amaratunga, with Rachmaninoff’s Elegie — a piece of haunting fantasy and so performed with sheer brilliance.

What followed was Mozart’s Pianoforte Trio K354 in G minor, in three movements — Allegro — Andante — Allegretto — with Haasinee Andree on the violin, Dushyanthi Perera on the cello and Bridget Halpé at the keyboard. It was a cameo — enthralling and mesmerising the audience for almost 15 minutes.

Following this masterpiece was another — Puccini’s poignant Un Bel Di VedremoOne Day He Will Come Back — from Madame Butterfly sung by Michiko Herath. The sheer beauty of voice matched the elegance of the music. The effect was further enhanced by the appearance of the soloist in Japanese costume.

The last of the Young Professionals were the talented pianists Namali Premawardhana and Dhanushya Amaratunga giving an edited version of Franz Liszt’s Ungarische RhapsodieHungarian Rhapsody no.2 – with great dexterity and skill.

Back on stage came the Peradeniya Singers moving with ease from classical and romantic to contemporary music. Their resoundingly vibrant and worldly O FortunaFortune, Empress Of The World — was followed by Handel’s Galatea Dry Thy Tears, a beautiful pastoral entertainment serenata.

Switching back to the devotional and sacred, Bridget had aptly chosen a section from Mozart’s RequiemLacrymosa — rendered as a perfect tribute to the great master. To me it was most sublime.

The last two offering were Carl Strommen’s Wings with And The Father Will Dance by Mark Hayes — both contemporary compositions. The first of these soared like an eagle under the excellent direction of Haasinee Andree.

The evening’s magic was concluded dramatically with a folk piece based on the Book Of Zephaniah prophesying The Father Will Dance!

— Malinie Samarajiwa

English for adults

Ten YMCA English teachers from all over the country have now been successfully trained by the British Council on how to teach English to adults. They will be returning to the YMCA centers in their areas to initiate English language classes for school leavers.

The YMCA intends to open up nine of their centers round the country to teach English to school leavers. They aim to improve the level of English and therefore the mployability of school leavers in these areas. The initial centers will be in Negombo, Pamunugama, Coleombo, Nugegoda, Dehiwela, Ampara, Akkaraipattu and Mannar. The trainee teachers are also being funded to take the Teaching Knowledge Test awarded by the University of Cambridge in September. The centers plan to start teaching English in September.

The teacher-training course developed by Dr. Lesley Dick and delivered with Liz Evans and Kieran Joyce, two British Council trainers, was funded by Geneva Global and USAID. The course which ran from July 3 - 21, took place at the YMCA premises in Kurana.

The course covered methodology, language analysis, micro-teaching and teaching practice. Volunteer students from the local community of Negombo and Pamunugama attended the classes that the trainees used for teaching practice.

The course also included the observation of experienced teachers using the latest teacher training DVD series. The course participants embraced the learner centered methodology with enthusiasm and are looking forward to putting theory into practice on their return to their YMCA centers.

Of Kuveni, BBC and local tourism!

Trust our effervescent musicians and dancers to light up even the dreariest, dustiest, grayest element of London!

Not that Trafalgar Square is particularly dreary, but who better than an ancient queen seeking revenge on a nation (apparently still, after over 2500 years!) and two popular singers who took the country by storm once and remain on the top 10 years down the line, to really jazz up the place?

Bathiya and Santhush (B n’ S), together with Channa, Upuli and their gorgeous dance troupe, enthralled everyone: Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Tourism Minister Anura Bandaranaike, First Lady Shiranthi Rajapakse and the people of London, at the Trafalgar Square when they performed there recently.

The Channa Dance Troupe presented a dance sequence inspired by the life of Kuveni at the event.

Samaraweera arranged the whole affair, geared at promoting Sri Lanka as a tourist destination, in collaboration with the Mayor of London. Imran Saibu of Funtime Entertainments produced the show.

Following the concert, Mike Hemley on BBC interviewed B n’S, in the presence of expert journalist (on Asian Music) Sunny Mundal.

The Lankan singing duo went all out to wipe out the ugly images of a shattered nation embedded in the collective international conscience, and showcase the country as it is: a land that has its perils, but also a place with enough culture, vibrancy, history and ‘life’ to offer something to everyone who has the spirit and guts to visit it!

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