Mirror Magazine

Melodiously yours…
If you are looking for some exceptional voices, tuneful harmonies and pleasing arrangements, Evolution II is where you should be! Smriti Daniel takes a closer look
As soon as you meet them, it’s obvious that the guys who form the ‘Old Joes’ Choir’ (OJC) are all in fact quite young. This curiosity is explained when you discover that all the members of OJC are past students of St. Joseph’s College, Colombo 10, and though the name borders on the irreverent, one must admit it does make a rather appropriate title for this spirited crew. Doctors, lawyers and other assorted professionals by day and choir ‘men’ by evening, the members of OJC also have another thing in common – they are all passionate about music.

Though they’ve been around for a couple of years now, the choir hasn’t put together a show of their own since 2002. Fans of OJC are sure to remember Evolution I. The show was an outstanding success by any standard; especially when you consider that it was OJC’s maiden concert. In fact, under the inspired baton of music director Deshan Cooray, the choir put up a performance that was the musical equivalent of a shot of dextrose to the Colombo choral music scene.

Since then, the group has been spotted performing in concerts at numerous other events, and have shared the stage with some of the island’s most prominent choirs. Notably in Circle of Life I and II, the Old Joes Choir practically shone. Having now garnered an impressive set of laurels and a suitably extraordinary repertoire, they’re back with Evolution II. Those who enjoyed Evolution I will be relieved to discover that the choir intends to stick to the unconventional, yet wholly satisfying theme they followed with that memorable concert. Beginning with some early classical numbers with the likes of Mozart and Schubert, they intend to make their way up the timeline and into the realms of more contemporary music such as the blues, pop, rock and gospel.

Assisting Deshan with this concert is renowned pianist Eshantha Peiris. The two of them have created some interesting arrangements for OJC which will be unveiled, so to speak, at the two-hour long Evolution II. Incidentally the tag line for the show is “in more than just black and white,” in keeping with the choir’s determination to avoid being lumped into the ‘just another male choir’ category. They’re pulling out all the stops for Evolution II, and if you’re impressed at the thought of the band that will accompany OJC in concert, then the 12 string orchestra is sure to bowl you over.

At this point, it would normally be considered the done thing to inform you of the exact nature of the music OJC will be singing. Unfortunately (or fortunately as the case may be), they are determined to surprise their audience, and will not let anything leak beyond these names – Duran Duran, Lionel Ritchie and the Commodores, Seal and Queen and The Prince of Egypt. As they did a spectacular job with “Bo-Rap” (known to the masses as Bohemian Rhapsody) in Evolution I, one can only live in the hope of them doing justice to the medley of Queen numbers they have planned for this concert.
The choir’s choice of programme has a lot to do with Deshan’s vision.

He insists that the all-male OJC includes in their repertoire the technically challenging classical pieces even as they embrace the more recent rock and pop numbers. This policy gives OJC a somewhat unique niche in the world of Sri Lankan choristers, as they manage to serve up for their rapt audience, a wide variety of numbers taken from an equally large range of musical genre.
This choir obviously does not suffer from a dearth of ambition, a characteristic which is sure to keep them in place amongst the island’s foremost all-male choirs. It doesn’t hurt either that as each batch passes out, OJC finds itself gifted with an influx of new blood. Ranging from 19-year-olds to 32-year-olds, this 25-member strong choir has enough enthusiasm and zest to power a small city. As Deshan says, “there’s still plenty of the school boy spirit in us.”
Interestingly, some of the current members of the choir were not singers while in school, but chose to join the OJC after leaving. They’ve been rehearsing for four months now to make Evolution II a reality.

Sharing the stage with the OJC as guest performers will be the Past Bridgetines’ Choir. The latter will not only perform some of their own numbers, they’ll be stepping into harmonise with the OJC on a few songs as well. Together, the two choirs are bound to put up a very memorable, very entertaining show; one that will have us all up on our feet and shouting for more.

Evolution II will be held at the Lionel Wendt on August 27 and 28 from 7 p.m. onwards. Tickets are available at the Wendt and are priced at Rs. 150, 250, 350 and 500 respectively. The main sponsor of the event is Debug Computer Peripherals Pvt. Ltd and the co-sponsor is GreenLanka.


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