Mirror Magazine
10th December 2000
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One great voice for Christmas

By Uthpala Gunethilake
When I walked inside St. Joseph's Chapel last Sunday morning a major operation was in full swing. The chapel was resounding with the sound of 600 vocal chords working towards musical perfection, all together. 

You couldn't talk among yourselves except to "say something nice to your neighbour", and if once was not enough, twice or thrice you go raising your voices to the hymns, until you reach just the right tone. Once you do, the chapel resounds once more, this time with pride, relief and sounds of applause.

This was the Colombo Diocesan choir, made up of 600 voices from 17 schools spanning Negombo to Kalutara. They were trying to achieve perfection in order to perform on December 17 at 'Godspell 2000' Christmas Cantata, to be held at St. Joseph's College.

They have been practising for months, first in parts, while the voices were blended together later. At the helm are Mr. Francis Almeida and Father Mahendra Gunathilaka, directing the 600 choristers. But at the performance which celebrates the Jubilee year of Christ's birth, 17 school choir leaders will guide the voices.

Mr. Almeida says that singing is not all that's lined up for the evening. "There'll be a series of skits to go along with the songs, depicting the horrors that children face. We try to give a message: that the world is still the same after two thousand years and that we have to do something". The evening will feature both classical and modern hymns in English, Sinhala, Tamil, Latin and Spanish. 

So how does it feel like to be a single string in one great 'voice'? "It's tough but we are enjoying it," says Migara Lewis of the Josephian choir. "Singing is fine but the conducting part of it is a bit scary," says Honorine Hallock, who is one of the 17 who will be at the helm. She adds "It gives a lot of experience and exposure, because you mingle with a lot of people."

With 600 voices whittled down to a fine, resounding wave of hymnal music by pure co-ordination and talent, and choristers in the four different-coloured robes separating them into their different parts, the choir will certainly create just the right mood for Christmas.

Dressing up for Christmas

By Laila Nasry 
Today's window decorations in stores are a feast for the eye. Gone are the windows pock marked with cotton and a few santas pasted here and there. Instead today, the windows are carefully planned, thematic, colourful and 'dressed to kill'!

So who's behind all this festive creativity? Any wild guesser would suggest interior decorators, window designers - well...how about a chef and a lawyer for a change. 

Jerome Correy is the Pastry chef at Fab. Other than luring customers by turning out mouth watering cakes and goodies he has a 'hand' in adorning the store for the season. "Since I started work at the Fab three years ago I've been doing the decorations for all its six outlets." The general making, decorating and cake structures as a pastry chef has Jerome's creative juices flowing. "My job is a very creative one and it was my boss in the Middle East who inspired me in this field of interior decorating which I have followed with fervour by reading books." 

However his demanding job has left little time to pursue his hobby. "I generally start on the decor from around the first of November and I work on them after working hours." Jerome is ably supported by a talented crowd.

The decor is mostly out of remnants that come into Fab, resulting in a low budget. "I use the gunnys in which the Bombay onions are brought. I collect twigs, pieces of mirror and of course the silver paper are the remains of cake board wrappings." The hard part is coming up with themes for six different outlets but Jerome's not one lacking in inspiration. "This year the theme is 'Penguins in action' and I've used different colours and situations for the outlets."

"I'm always looking around and waiting to be inspired" says Saumya Wijesekara, the creative genius behind the beautiful decorations at the Hameedia chain of stores. Saumya who has always been interested in decorating and interior designing is a lawyer by profession. But not for her the penal code and the constitution; more of her time is devoted to her one time hobby. "It's hectic and I'm really busy", so much so that she is at the mercy of her mom and others when it comes to taking care of the kids! "But this is something I really enjoy," she gushes. 

Working on her own, aided by a team of men, she looks to mother nature for inspiration. "Most of my materials are natural. I'm all for recycling and preserving trees and I try not to use plastic and rigiform." Dried and woven coconut palms, vines, logs and twigs are generally what she uses for decor. 

Coming up with original ideas is a lot of hard work, she confesses but all the same she's never short of them. "Sometimes the clients tell me what they want and in what colours and I try to work around it but mostly I give them the initial idea and use my discretion when it comes to colours." Saumya works with light and silvery colours for she says they show more unless there is special lighting. A completed store is what brings satisfaction to Saumya who travels around the country adorning and decorating.

These windows are done by professionals but not necessarily with diplomas in interior designing and decorating. All that one needs is professionalism with a creative imagination, deft fingers and an eye for all that is beautiful and - voila the shops are ready for the season. 

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