An evening ablaze with musical fervour

Review of Soul Sounds’ “Glorious Quest: O Happy Day”
By Eshantha Peiris

It’s nice to be pleasantly surprised. It’s nice to walk out of a concert-hall thinking “awesome!”, as opposed to “by local standards that was good, no?”. I had heard Soul Sounds singing gospel songs before, and hadn’t been particularly impressed, which made it all the more delightful when I discovered at their recent concert ‘Glorious Quest: O Happy Day’ (January 16th, at the Lionel Wendt Theatre) that the choir had developed an authentic sense of ‘soul’, seemingly overnight.

Credit must be given where due, and in this case the direct link with the American southern-gospel tradition was provided courtesy of visiting conductor Prof. Mark Wilson. Starting from the song selection (running the gamut from traditional Spirituals to contemporary-gospel standards), the call-&-response singing format, the riveting ‘gospel-sound’ drawn out of the choir, and the soulful piano-thumping, to the extroverted stage presence, and the sincere belief in the power of this music to transcend man-made barriers, Prof. Wilson brought with him the real deal, and Soul Sounds was the perfect vehicle for delivering the message.

Singing their hearts out at the Trinity Col lege Chapel in Kandy

Gospel music is an art of spontaneity, holding ideals such as ‘inspiration’ and ‘communal praise’ in high esteem, and if some of the concert-numbers looked a little under-rehearsed (I’m told that the performance was put together in under a week) it only added electricity to an evening that was already ablaze with musical fervour. Whereas the choir’s subtlety and versatility was best displayed in the Spirituals (‘Give me Jesus’, ‘Ezekiel saw the wheel’) – music director Soundarie David Rodrigo’s background in classical choral music deserves credit here – it was the gospel numbers (e.g. ‘This little light of mine’, ‘O Happy Day’) that really showcased what Prof. Wilson was capable of inspiring: leading the praise from the front, his improvisatory approach to singing and precise yet passionate conducting all contributed towards the boundless energy that hit the audience that evening.

Too often when musicians use the catch-phrase ‘Music is a universal language’, what they really mean is: ‘Everybody should listen to my genre of music’. But when Prof. Wilson brought up the concept (“Music is the voice of all humanity, of whatever time or place. In its presence we are one…”), he really meant it. Gospel music, with its history of racial segregation, is a music of inclusiveness, and this was not forgotten when the audience was invited, Baptist-congregation-style, to actively participate in the hymn ‘I’m looking for a miracle’ (also featuring a guest appearance by the Soul Sounds Academy chorus and Intermediate group) and the civil-rights-movement anthem ‘We shall overcome’.

While on the theme of brotherhood/sisterhood, attention was also drawn to the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr. (whose birth anniversary coincided with the concert weekend) through a somewhat over-dramatized recitation of the landmark ‘I have a dream’ speech. Personally, I got the impression that the references to Dr. MLK were a bit lost on our local audience… maybe a little bit of contextual background (e.g. the civil-rights movement, the Gandhi connection) and contemporary relevance (e.g. awareness of institutionalized racism, non-violent political solutions) might have infused the song-set with a whole new level of meaning? Of course, preaching the idea of universal fraternity/sorority to a foreign audience carries a lot more weight when backed by shared history: Prof. Wilson’s ‘back-to-the-roots’ approach of tracing the common African poly-rhythmic origins of Sri Lankan Baila and American Gospel through the programming of the West-African chant ‘asito aina oh’ was a nice touch, and drove the point home much more forcefully than any academic lecture on the subject could have done.

Special mention must also be made of the vocal soloists Dinushka Jayawickreme and Shehara Liyanage and the instrumentalists Soundarie David Rodrigo (piano), Neranjan de Silva (keyboards) and Christopher Prins (drums) for adding a professional touch to what was already an evening of pure musical joy.

Next time I think the choir should consider performing their gospel concert in an Evangelical church.

Top to the page  |  E-mail  |  views[1]
SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Other Magazine Articles
Dazzling designs
An evening ablaze with musical fervour
A treat for Kandy’s piano music lovers
magazine -- Cover of the week
Mirror Magazine Articles
What’s up with Grace?
News on the Web
A pointless rendition of an excellent book!
A different sound
‘Avatar’ passes ‘Titanic’ on worldwide chart
On the road to Jaffna
TV Times Articles
‘The Kreators’ begins to create
Floribbean Cuisine at 7th Slow Food Night at MLH
Pedro Hotel
Chilaw gets its tourism share
Shamalee rocks the German scene
Saybhan’s Society Band
‘Sikuru Hathe’ back on screen
Aladin wonder Jackie excites Bollywood
A variety for b’fast and lunch at Café 64
‘Kanyawi’ continues
‘Kelani Palama’ in town
‘Rosa Katu’ passed 250 parts
Interaction 2010


Reproduction of articles permitted when used without any alterations to contents and a link to the source page.
© Copyright 2010 | Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka. All Rights Reserved.| Site best viewed in IE ver 6.0 @ 1024 x 768 resolution