Novel creations, backed by vibrant sounds, movement and harmony
"Pop, rock and all that jazz ". Presented by Voices in Harmony. Produced and directed by Ruwani Seimon at the Lionel Wendt Theatre on August 13
By Izhara Huzair Zubair
It was great entertainment and I was there, on the opening night. The programme neatly rotated the medleys sung by the junior and senior choirs, in between the soloists, thus sustaining the attention of the audience.

Ranging from pop such as "I Will Survive", "Tragedy", "Wild World", to all-time favourites "Sound of Silence", "Jambalaya", "Hard Day's Night", and the fusion medley comprising "Dhanno Budhunge" and "Master Sir", the show ensured everyone could sing along and enjoy themselves at some point or the other, given the familiarity of the songs. The programme progressed with good momentum, albeit slowed briefly by the speech of appreciation.

In comparison with "Gotta Sing, Wanna Dance" staged two years ago, The Voices in Harmony (TVH) worked in a lot more costume changes and choreography, and experimented more with choral arrangements and lights.

An all-girl, or should I say women, ensemble sang in sultry harmony, the very jazzy "Fly Me To The Moon". Attired in smart black pant suits, with a touch of white, the costume selection complemented and added an aura of sophistication to the song. Similarly, the junior choir wore earthy yet vibrant costumes, that blended well with songs such as "Seasons in the Sun" and "Lion Sleeps Tonight".

It was evident that TVH had ventured into more complex dance sequences, and "Cell Block Tango" revealed just that. The girls showed much agility, prowess and confidence in their movements, although perhaps they needed to focus better to ensure that when they danced individually as well as together as a unit, they maintained the same degree of intensity and continuity.

Many may agree that the medley on Sri Lankan songs showcased the best of the programme's choral arrangements. From "Jaya Mangalaani" to "Thuranga Wannama", the arrangements were novel, fresh and wonderfully harmonious. Complete with choreography that adapted the smooth and flowing movements of Kandyan dancing, and wonderful accompaniment - it was a memorable and creative performance. On the whole, the choral arrangements were good and handled adeptly by both the junior and senior choirs.

As far as the sets were concerned, the projector and scanners were the new features - and I would have preferred them in smaller doses! Now to the performances. On a sparsely yet effectively lit stage, all the soloists sang with conviction and emotion. They delivered well and with clarity. At times I felt some of them seemed restricted to staying in one spot, as opposed to moving around the apron as they pleased. Subjectively, the writer really enjoyed the performances of Sheranga Perera, Safra Deen and Nuwan Perera.

Of the duets, "I want to spend my lifetime…" by Charith Peris and Ashanthi Colombage, was a stirring performance. Ashanthi was especially captivating. Carlene de Fry and Charith Perera vibed well together in "Picture", with Carlene in particular being quite passionate.

Special mention should be made of the junior choir, who were cute but performed with serious intent. They sang with gusto and handled their dance movements quite niftily. All in all, while there were a few miscues on the technical side, and tense nerves (or, should I say voices), the Voices in Harmony gave an impressive performance.

They have successfully taken their vocal and dancing skills to a higher level of versatility. Both choirs have obviously been seasoned as a result of performing publicly. More importantly, they looked like they really enjoyed themselves onstage and yes, are showing signs of growing - professionally. Well done!

Beven, a man not afraid of colour
By Chandri Peris in London
Most of us who are familiar with local artists have come across works by George Beven. His colourful works of the Sri Lankan landscape have a distinct quality, which could only be interpreted as an insider's view of that which is familiar to us, reworked with a freshness that is absent in the works of many.

George Beven believes that "colour" which is the essence of all things associated with the East is steadily disappearing from the works of Asian artists who are now moving towards the traditions of painting associated with the West. "Our people," he says "are becoming afraid of colour." Hence, vibrant splashes of colour have now become a trademark of George Beven's style and interpretation of our land, its people and traditions.

Beven began his career in the most unusual manner. When he was very young, he was employed by the Lake House newspaper as an illustrator for a paltry salary of 150 rupees a month. He then joined the Heywood School of Fine Arts to learn painting and drawing. Lake House then provided him with a scholarship to study at the St Martin's School of Art and Design in London after which he returned to Sri Lanka to continue working at Lake House.

He later moved back to Britain where he held his first exhibition at the Royal Commonwealth Society. Unable to make a living as an artist he pursued a career in the travel industry but carried on painting for his own pleasure. It was during this time that he developed his own unique technique, which he refers to as "Monotones". It is an unusual style of flicking Indian ink onto cartridge paper to create portraits.

Recognition of this style of painting came with the portrait of Princess Margaret, which was commissioned by a friend of the Princess. Other celebrities such as Marlene Dietrich, Diana Dors, Rudolph Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov were painted in this technique and autographed by them.

It was when his position in the travel industry became insecure that he decided to return to painting full time. A new journey of discovery began for him when he tried different approaches to painting by going back to study art. During this time he studied the art of photography as well. This he did at the age of 50.

Leaving the monotone period behind, he concentrated on exploring the use of colour in oils, acrylic and gouache. Sri Lanka, to which he returns annually provided him with the rich rawness of vibrant colour that has moulded him into the artist he is today.

Of the many distinct styles that we associate George Beven's paintings with, the most interesting period of his development was the one when he used his fingers to paint. Finger painting on rush mats was yet another technique that he explored together with a Russian artist whom he met in Colombo in the fifties. He resorted to this style of work partly due to the lack of finances to purchase brushes and canvas.

Celebrating his 75th birthday, George Beven looks back at a life of rich experiences. One of his other great ambitions was to be a dancer. Back in the early days, when he was about nine-years-old he began to learn dancing with Majorie Sample and Timmy Ingleton. He talks fondly of a time when he used to perform with Romayne Dias on the Colombo stage. During a period when racial discrimination was at its peak in Sri Lanka, he remembers rehearsing at the Colombo Swimming Club with the C.A.D.C, (which was a British performing company) and recalls that after having had lengthy rehearsals, the "coloured" members of the company were not permitted to use the showers or have a drink in the premises!

As an artist who paints graphic nudes of both males and females, he recalls a time when painting nudes of any sort was a bit problematic and therefore applauds society in present-day Sri Lanka for having come to terms with several of these issues which otherwise would have been seen as discriminatory and non-progressive.

His love for dance has never diminished and very probably grew stronger due to his association with his partner Wolfgang Stange. Wolfgang Stange is a dancer, choreographer and teacher of dance who has specializes in working with the differently abled. Twenty-four years ago Wolfgang Stange created an all Inclusive Dance Theatre Company called "AMICI" which is now very well known around the world. In 1998, Stange together with Rohana Deva created The Butterflies Theatre Company under the patronage of Sunethra Bandaranaike and was supported on this project by George Beven himself.

The combination of dance and art come together in perfect fusion and George Beven's creativity was put into yet another dimension when he designed the costumes for most of Wolfgang's concerts in London. He often collaborates with Wolfgang on projects that they do together in Sri Lanka. This involves conducting "art" workshops with children in refugee camps and in certain institutions for children and others with disabilities, thus encouraging an atmosphere of creativity among the underprivileged in our society.

As a celebration of their relationship, which has lasted over 35 years, Wolfgang Stange had decided to present a book about George Beven and his invaluable contribution to art, "A Life in Art". This beautiful and informative book will be available at the opening of George Beven's exhibition "People and Places" to be held at the Lionel Wendt Art Gallery from August 24 to 27.

Festival of the best
Girls' High School Kandy, in commemoration of its 125th anniversary presents "Choral Sensations 2004", a choir festival featuring the best school choirs of Sri Lanka and a guest performance by Ruwani Seimon's "Voices in Harmony" on August 28 at 5.00 p.m. at the Bishop's College Auditorium, Colombo.
Tickets priced at Rs. 500, Rs. 300 and Rs. 200 are available at the Bishops College Auditorium.

Classical with a difference
"Slightly out of tune", an out of the ordinary classical programme leaning towards the unconventional, will be presented by Sureka Amerasinghe (flute) and Eshantha Peiris (Piano) at the Russian Cultural Centre on August 23 at 7.30 p.m.

The pogramme will include works by Bach, Gluck, Gounod, Gershwin, Mower and Jobim among others. Definitely not for the classically faint hearted, the show promises to be evolutionary and challenging. Guest artistes will include Oshan Gunawardana, Johann Peiris, Tharanga Goonetilleke, Eranga Goonetilleke, Tilanka Jayamanne, Derek Wickramanayake, Alston Joachim, Aruna Siriwardhana and Natasha Ratnayake. Tickets are available at Symphony (Pvt) Ltd., Tel: 4517596.

They too have their own stories
Companions on a Journey is in the process of publishing an anthology of gay writings from Sri Lanka which they hope will serve as a testimony of everyday personal and political struggles of gay/lesbian/transgendered, bi-sexual people of Sri Lankan society. It could also serve as a personal reflection on leading a homosexual life in Sri Lanka, which can be construed as a daily political resistance of a personal kind, a statement from the NGO says. Writings could be on any theme as long as they deal with homosexuality and non-heterosexual orientation, love, sex, heartbreak, homophobia, marriage, family, social spaces, friendships, spirituality, resistance, etc.

Submissions can be from Sri Lankans living in Sri Lanka or abroad and could be in English, Sinhalese or Tamil. Pseudonyms or pen names could be used. Essays, letters, prose, poetry, songs, verses, drama skits, cartoons, line drawings, short stories etc., could be submitted before October 15 to: Companions on a Journey, Robert Drive, Robert Gunawardhane Mawatha, Colombo 06.

Surreal through solid medium
'Imaginary Forms', Manoranjana Herath's 11th solo exhibition of sculpture and drawings will be held at Finomenal Space Gallery, from August 27 to Sept. 6. Commenting on his work, sculptor Sarath Chandrajeewa, course director of the Colombo Academy of Fine Arts writes: "He is showing once again through this exhibition his professionalism of handling materials and transforming concepts into solid medium as a sculptor. In that, lies his success.

"Mano's sculptural language, like before has a combination of figurative semi abstract and surrealistic characteristics. A dominance of surrealistic style is more evident in this exhibition compared to his previous ones. Organic and inorganic forms blend with the space in perfect harmony creating a sense of visual rhythm that appeals to the spectator."

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