It seemed and sounded like a once in a life-time event as 66 singers of St. Cecilia's Choir of St. Joseph's College presented a unique all-Italian concert at the Bonjean Hall on August 22, 2008.
This grand edifice gained an antique look with the remodelled and re-located stage based on ancient Roman architecture. In that stylish set up, the choir consisting of singers between the ages of 10-18 began their recital sharp on time dressed in elegant robes depicting shades of Rome's past glory. For a fleeting one hour and 30 minutes, the scene resounded with the best of Italian and Latin compositions exquisitely produced and presented.
The choir came under the baton of young Shehan Dias who stood for Nuwan Perera, the regular student conductor, as he had suddenly taken ill. Backed by accompanists in piano and organ with Yohan Peiris, Shamal de Silva and Rayanthi Kumarasinghe and the violinist Nishantha Warnakulasuriya the choir raised their richly blending voices to render the National Anthem. It was followed by the authentic version of the majestic Josephian anthem in full harmony. Then came the soul stirring Italian Millennium Jubilee song "Gloria A Te," followed by Va Pensiero by Verdi. These two contrasting choruses came alive with abundant sensitivity to capture the intended mood change.
Normally Mozart's grand "Laudate" requires a mature female soprano as a soloist. But the 12-year-old boy soprano Sachintha Wijegunesekera backed by the choir, and the young violinist Nishantha Warnakulasuriya, gave an awe-inspiring performance. Equally well presented piece was "La Virgine" by Verdi. Daniel Ferdinandez, an alto, proved his vocal dexterity to re-produce the demanding solo. This section of the concert also included the rousing Sanctus and Hosanna from Mosart's Requiem.
Thereafter, came several solos with tenor Ryan Lord's tender rendition of "O Solo Mio"; "La Donne Mobile" by the budding 13-year-old tenor sensation Emmesh Wijegunewardena and "Caro Mio ben" by baritone Luckshan Perera. What captured the hearts of the audience then was the vocalization by 34 sopranos and altos in Mozarts "Voi Che Sapette," conducted by the 12-year-old Daniel Ferdinandez. This section also included Handel's melodious composition "Lascia Chio Pianga," with the full choir.
This was followed by the fast moving, toe-tapping "Anvil Chorus" sung with adequate fineness while capturing the fortissimo of the lilting chorus. Deviating from the all Italian formula - La Duce - the prayer - had a right mix of Italian and English words. This modern song popularized by Andrea Bottcelli and Celin Deon was sung in a re-arranged 4 part SATB version.
The final lap started with the revised version of "La Montenara" with the baritone Warran Hekal vocalizing the solo part. "Funiculi Funicular" came next with the solo by boy tenor Emmesh clinching the top C with utmost fluidity had the audience enthralled.
The final Italian farewell song - "It's time to say goodbye" - "Con te Partiro" was an appropriate melodious finale sung soulfully with the final chord in 5 part harmony resonating and declaring that St. Cecilia's Choir equal to any of the world top notch choirs in the world.
This memorable choral concert presented in tribute to the great musician priest Rev.Fr. Claver Perera will be staged once again in Kandy at St. Anthony's College Katugathota on September 27, at 5.30pm. If you have missed Sogni Romani in Colombo it's worth the effort to travel to Kandy to hear the hills come alive with the sound of music in Roman style.