They loved Whitney, all of Whitney - her voice, her music, her looks; they were saddened by her life’s unceasing battles; they empathized with her frailties. So when the all-female choir Soul Sounds presented “a Celebration of Whitney Houston- A story of life through song’ it was not just any other concert, it was their heartfelt goodbye to the singer they had adored and idolized as young female musicians themselves.
It was a power-packed show from the moment the girls dressed all in black strode on stage at the Stables, the newest venue at Park Street Mews, before a full house on March 30. Whitney’s face appeared on the backdrop, the images changing from the fresh-faced girl with her bouncing Afro to the dynamic diva and svelte star, tracing her personal journey through her album covers stretching from 1985 all the way to 2009 as the evening progressed. And the Soul Sounds soloists, from Aanjanee Jayasooriya, Shaza Wickremarathne, Angela Fernando, Shehara Liyanage, Andrea Melder Labrooy, Tanisha Wijesinghe to Rashie Wickremaratne James, all surpassed themselves, taking the Whitney hits and interpreting them their way, bringing out different aspects of the star, her Gospel roots, her great promise, equally her vulnerability and her strength.
For the audience, most die-hard Whitney Houston fans it was a concert that tapped into their own Whitney memories. No doubt, everyone had a Whitney song that was special to them – whether the haunting ‘Didn’t we almost have it all’ to Where do broken hearts go?’ or the powerful female anthem ‘I’m every woman’ to the poignant ‘When you believe’ so this was a chance to revisit and relive those moments in a very personal way. That a few lesser known songs among Whitney’s repertoire ‘I didn’t know my own strength’ and ‘Hold on , help is on the way’ were included added depth to a well-paced and tightly knit concert, a tribute to Music Director Soundarie David’s considerable skills.
Perhaps the only regret was that the song that Whitney is most associated with- ‘I will always love you’ from The Bodyguard where she memorably starred with Kevin Costner which many anticipated would be the grand finale was not performed. Instead the girls trooped off stage and watched from the wings as a video clip with a tribute to her was played and Whitney’s soaring voice filled the room. Unmatchable, yes, but we would have liked to see Soul Sounds sing it their way!