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Soundarie and Soul Sounds do it again...

Soul Sounds — all female choir

By Raisa Wickrematunge

Not long ago I predicted that I would soon be hearing again from Soundarie David, Music Director of Soul Sounds. Of course, I was right.

Soul Sounds is an all female choir which has won international awards, and has travelled to various venues since 2006. Therefore it was no surprise when Soundarie told me that the choir had been invited to perform in China, for a "South Asian Musical Evening" on June 27. The event is to be co-hosted by the Sri Lankan and Indian embassies in China, and will be held at the prestigious Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing. The Shillong Chamber Choir of India, who have performed in Sri Lanka in the past, have also been invited to perform.

It’s not the first time that Soul Sounds has travelled to China. Their first trip was in 2006 to the World Choir Games in Xiamen, where they won two silver medals. In fact, it was the first time Sri Lanka had been represented at the event.

Since that event, Soul Sounds have travelled widely. Following the 2006 World Choir Games they performed in India. In 2007 they performed in Australia and Kuwait. 2008 was a big year for the ensemble when they won three gold medals at the World Choir Games in Austria. After that Soul Sounds travelled twice to India, once for a concert and once to participate in the South Asian Band Festival, held in Purana Quila (Old Fort) in Delhi. Most recently, Soul Sounds toured in Normandy, France.

Being a member of Soul Sounds certainly sounds glamourous, considering the number of concerts they have been invited to participate in since 2006. Jet-setting around the globe, singing to international audiences? Sounds like fun!

However, Soul Sounds does more than just provide an international audience with a night’s good entertainment. The purpose of the latest event in China is to promote "mutual cultural cooperation and understanding," between South Asia and China. The performance in Kuwait was also held to improve Sri Lanka’s image in the country. In essence, the choir acts as an ambassador of sorts — representing the country at contests as well as improving diplomatic relations with other countries.

The choristers said that for many of the members, Soul Sounds was a hobby. They performed simply for love of music. Travelling often had its pitfalls – in one chorister’s words, "half of us are not too sure if we will have our jobs when we return!" However everyone said they enjoyed the experience of travelling and encountering new cultures.

As a choir, Soul Sounds wants to show the world that Sri Lanka has many talents besides cricket. Considering the slew of awards Soul Sounds has received in the past, they have certainly been successful in achieving this aim.

Now that the decades-long conflict has been resolved, Soul Sounds wants to send a message of "peace and harmony" while promoting Sri Lankan talent overseas. They also want to reach out to people of diverse cultures and backgrounds, using a medium which transcends all barriers – music.

This tour in China will go some way to achieving that goal, and showing the world that, talent-wise, Sri Lanka does, indeed, have a lot to offer.

Another night at the museum

The film will reunite Ben Stiller with many of the cast from the original film as well as introducing several new characters from history.

The centerpiece of the film is the Smithsonian Institution, which houses the world’s largest museum complex with more than 136 million items in its collections, ranging from the plane Amelia Earhart flew on her solo flight across the Atlantic, Al Capone’s rap sheet and mug shot to Dorothy’s ruby red slipper; and Archie Bunker’s lounge chair.

Night has fallen upon the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. The guides have gone home, the lights are out, the school kids are tucked in their beds ... yet something incredible is stirring as loaner night guard Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) finds himself lured into his biggest, most imagination-boggling adventure yet in which history truly comes alive.

In this second installment of the Night At The Museum saga, Larry faces a battle so epic it could only unfold in the corridors of the world’s largest museum.

Now, Larry must try to save his formerly inanimate friends from what could be their last stand amid the wonders of the Smithsonian, all of which, from the famous painting; on the walls to the rocket ships in the halls, suddenly have a mind of their own. 

Sujeeva Hapugalla in the spotlight

Sujeeva Hapugalla

Sujeeva Hapugalla is back in town, fresh from a host of performances around the world. She will once again thrill Sri Lankan audiences with a stylistically varied programme of romantic and impressionistic works as well as operatic and song transcriptions by Chopin, Liszt, Schumann, Debussy and Ravel at her concert, Poetry Of The Piano on July 3, at the Lionel Wendt. The concert is sponsored by Zonta Club II and all proceeds are in aid of the Burns Unit of the National Hospital.

Sujeeva’s concert repertoire will also include a rich tapestry of vibrant rhythms from around the world: the mystical and magical music of the Orient evoked by composers Jianzhong and Debussy, the melodic charm of Spain by the works of De Falla, and fiery, tempestuous Latin moods with Argentinian and Brazilian Tangos by Piazzolla, Ginastera, Nazerath, as well as lively Cuban dances by Ernesto Lecuona, all brought to life by her skilled artistry of the rich sonorities of the piano. A rousing finale by Gershwin will bring the concert to a close.

Sujeeva has done Sri Lanka proud with an impressive list of achievements the world over. She has been listed and presented through the coveted international roster of Steinway Concert Artists since 2001, and has been recognised for her engaging performances in all five continents. Sujeeva was an ABRSM scholar at the Royal College of Music, London, where she was awarded prestigious prizes. During her stay in the UK, which spanned many years, she performed on celebrated concert platforms and festivals in London, won numerous awards at national and international competitions and was featured on Classic FM and BBC television.

Her recent move to California in the US has fuelled her active international career as performer, much sought after educator, as well adjudicator of competitions together with her husband Prasanna who is an avid contributor to the arts. Sujeeva serves on the board of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra where she initiated the popular Rush Hour Concert Series in San Francisco’s financial district, an affiliation to the present Chamber Music for younger audiences in the Bay area which reached thousands of students. She is also a popular headline solo concert pianist for the 6 Star Cruise Line, Crystal where she performs alongside international celebrities.

Sujeeva has also been a keen supporter and performing artist for several charities in the UK, USA and Sri Lanka. She was a select artist for Sir Yehudi Menuhin’s Live Music Now Series in the UK. 

After a few years absence, Sujeeva is excited to be back on stage in Colombo. In her home country she first studied with her mother Indranee Hapugalle who celebrates 50 years of dedicated teaching this year and the revered Mary Billimoria. Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Sujeeva gives us a vivid glimpse of her life and thoughts as a celebrity performer.

Q: Your most memorable performance?

A: To me a concert is memorable when it reaches the hearts of an audience, provokes curiosity and acts as musical escape.

I have had many performances that have engaged me to great musical heights, which in turn, have provoked deep impressions and curiosity about the music in the audience. I feel very rewarded to have this type of energetic musically exciting dialogue with members of the audience, most often during post concert receptions etc. It is also particularly exciting when audience members who are new to classical music share their enthusiasm for a recital.

Q: What do you most enjoy about your concert performances?

A: Conveying the timeless excitement / spiritual / emotional message of great classical music through the extraordinary sound pallet of the piano.

Q: Your hobbies?

A: Engaging in diverse arts activities with my husband Prasanna, who is a passionate photographer and music lover. Travel, and supporting many forums for Young Artist performances. Education - family music programmes. I wish we had time to pursue other interest too!

Q: Your opinion of the musical talent produced by Sri Lanka to date?

A: I am excited to note the colourful array of very talented musicians pursuing music in Sri Lanka, who are contributing much to and influencing a growing enthusiastic musical audience. They are doing this very creatively, understanding the wider musical needs of the community and deserve a lot of support to nurture their art, given the fact that we do not quite have a very supportive formal infrastructure for the arts in Sri Lanka.

I am very happy to note that formal classical music establishments like the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka are exploring wonderful new vistas of portraying classical music (and now oriental music too) to wider audiences under the excellent visionary guidance of the governing board of directors,  the great pool of conductors and numerous passionate musicians.

Many notable choirs Soul Sounds, Revelations and great school choirs (I have heard a heart warming performance of Ladies College choir under Sureka Amerasinghe!) are also helping to create a community with a love and exposure to music.

My attention is also drawn to the very dedicated teachers who are selfless in their efforts in grooming and nurturing many of these young students, helping to build a musically astute younger generation. I was personally blessed to have studied with the revered Mary Billimoria and before that, with my mother Indranee Hapugalle, who have instilled and positively influenced their students over the years. My sister, Ruvini, who is a very dedicated musician, and I have been greatly influenced by their life long message of a true love for the arts and a commitment to drive for excellence.

Q: Did you make any special selections for your concert in Sri Lanka?

A: I wanted to share my experience shaped by hearing a wide and colourful sound pallet of music from around the world. There will be a section that includes some Latin American composers with a lot of the rhythms and melodies that we in Sri Lanka are very familiar with. — Renuka Jeya Raj

Suri Rajan installed as Governor

By Hafiz Marikar

The 19th District Assembly of Rotarians was held recently at Earls Regency Hotel Kandy. It was held on a grand scale under the patronage of District Governor Nalin Fernando, who on this occasion installed Governor Elect B.D.R. Suri Rajan as Governor for year 2009/2010 Rotary District 3220 Sri Lanka.

It was a memorable day for the Rotary Club of Kandy where one of their most popular members, Suri Rajan as he is known among the Rotarians, was installed as Governor. Rotary Club of Kandy won many awards, which were presented by District Governor Nalin Fernando, which included the award for the Best President which went to Gowri Rajan and Best Club for the Year 2008/09 in Sri Lanka.

 Some of the special achievements by Rotary Club of Kandy this year are:

 1). From the third largest club in Sri Lanka with a membership of 62, under the leadership of President Gowri it became the largest club in Sri Lanka with a membership of 103.

 2). Formed two new Rotary Clubs — Kandy Heritage and Digamadulla

 3). The Rotary Club of Kandy became a 100% Paul Harris Fellow Club (PHF) and its name has been inscribed in the Hall of Fame at the Rotary International Head Quarters in Chicago USA. 100% PHF Club means every member of the club has contributed US$1000 to the Rotary Foundation to carry out worldwide humanitarian work.

4). Avoidable Blindness Programme for over Rs 2.5 mn; Adopted six remote villages; set up two eye clinics in Kantale and Balapitiya at Rs. 10 mn; Water projects worth over Rs. 21 mn, Distribution of English books for Rs. 23 mn, etc.

A treat

The Cantando Cello Ensemble

The Cantando Cello Ensemble which has in recent times set the benchmark for ensemble string playing in Sri Lanka, makes a welcome appearance on stage on July 2, at the Lionel Wendt Theatre. Led and directed by Dushy Perera The Cantando has put together a demanding programme covering a wide variety of musical styles from baroque to film music. A special feature of the concert will be the performance of Cesar Franck’s Sonata performed by Dushy Perera with the world renowned pianist Rohan de Silva.

J.S. Bach’s Chaconne from the Partita No. 2 for solo violin is considered one of the great masterpieces of Western classical music. Brahms admired the work so much that he wrote a transcription of it for piano. He described the work as containing "a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings." The Cantando will perform a special arrangement of this work for cello ensemble written by Lazlo Varga.

Saint Seans’ Dance Macbre (Dance of Death) is another major work in the programme. As in the original orchestration, a xylophone is used symbolizing the rattling of bones. Johan Peiris will play xylophone with the ensemble for this work. In marked contrast will be Dvorak’s deeply felt slow movement of the New World Symphony in which the ensemble will display its sensitivity to romantic phrasing and tone colour.

With his score for West Side Story, the charismatic composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein moved the music of the American Musical from the stage to the concert hall. The audience at The Cantando concert will be able to savour two ever popular items from West Side Story, Tonight and America. Finishing the concert in a lighter vein will be Mancini’s jazz oriented classic, the theme from the film Pink Panther.

The growing reputation and stature of The Cantando Cello Ensemble as an outstanding string ensemble has led to them being invited to perform at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai, later in the year. There is no doubt that their forthcoming concert in Colombo will delight and enthrall discerning music lovers no less than the previous Cantando concerts over the past five years. Tickets for the concert are available at the Lionel Wendt Theatre.









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