Spread the sound of music in schools and north: ABRSM examiner

Sri Lanka has produced a galaxy of musicians who have gained international recognition, after getting a solid foundation from the assessment of musicianship conducted by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) for over a century, 113 years to be exact.

Sporting its new image, the ABRSM is spreading its ‘Gold Standard’ of examinations throughout the globe with a major presence in Asia particularly Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and now in China.
The recent two-day conference in Goa for all ABRSM representatives in India including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkatta, Chennai, Goa, Bangalore and Sri Lanka, was held to integrate plans for the future enhancement of ABRSM candidacy in the region.

Sri Lanka accounted for over half of the candidates sent in by India for the practicals and for as many candidates sent in by all of India for theory.

The Cantando Cello Ensemble performing at the concert

Christopher Moore who first represented the ABRSM here in 2000 as an examiner was back in Sri Lanka this year to assess the musicianship of over 800 candidates from Grades 1 to 8.

Referring to ABRSM’s potential in Sri Lanka, Christopher pointed out that the local organization was very strong due to the enthusiasm and dedication of local representative Mano Chanmugam and his team comprising Neomal and Pam.

“I think that music should develop in schools and that teachers here are quite well trained,” he said, adding that music would also help integrate the north with the rest of the country. “I know our examiners would be delighted to go to the north and the east.”

Advising teachers to seek every available resource to refresh their teaching and increase their capabilities, Christopher said that it is easy to be isolated and it is also easy as a teacher (“I have been a teacher for nearly 40 years”) to become stale. The ABRSM publications and Professional Development Programme (PDP) should be a measure of encouragement for all teachers to stay fresh and be in contact with his organization.

Christopher graduated with Honours in Music from Durham University and also holds Fellowships of the Royal College of Organists and the Trinity College of Music. He has the distinction of holding the LRAM Diploma in Pianoforte Teaching and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Diploma in Church Music. Christopher has also been awarded an honorary Fellowship of the Guild of Church Musicians.

Tackling the worries of parents, this experienced teacher and examiner said that time pressures are great on young people now, not only here but also in other countries. “So, music sometimes is a fairly lower priority than it ought to be. I believe that every child has some music in them. Not all are brilliant, most are quite average and some do not have much ability to enjoy music and partake of the joys of music. If the teaching is good and there is parental support and encouragement, more young people should be given every chance to learn music.”

There are those who don’t spend much time and show much dedication and I think our system reflects that in awarding lower marks. The high flyers here are as good as anywhere and show a great deal of dedication to what they are doing, he said.

Going down memory lane, Christopher recalled how enjoyable his visit 11 years ago was. “The same has happened this time, I have enjoyed myself very much, made a lot of new friends and I love this country very much. My recollections of my last visit, the details are rather faded now. My impression is that more people are doing our exams now than before and I know there is much scope for the future.”

Scintillating rhapsodies by high scorers

It is a good change of pace to attend a concert where the ambience is people-friendly and the line-up is as promising as only the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music can deliver. Invitees, parents and teachers of the candidates securing distinctions at last year’s ABRSM examinations were treated to a musical feast by the high achievers at the British School Auditorium on June 12. ‘Namo Namo Matha’ and ‘God Save the Queen’ performed by the Cantando Cello Ensemble were the prelude to a lively rendering of Strauss’ Die Fiedelmaus.

British High Commissioner John Rankin was the chief guest while Norwegian Ambassador Hilde Haraldstad, Deputy German Ambassador Dr. Stefan Weckbach, Deputy Indian High Commissioner Vikram Misri and Ms. Gill Westaway were the guests of honour.

The ABRSM team -- the Local Representative Mano Chanmugam, Pam De Alwis and Neomal De Alwis -- annually showcases this event and has always ensured an entertaining and talented line-up.

Mr. Chanmugam and Mr. Rankin concurred that music is probably one of the most powerful mediums of communication. It has a way of going from heart to heart. Music transcends boundaries, transcends difficulties; somehow music cuts through and none of those divisions mean anything.

When walking into the auditorium there was something intangible, something special in the air. Recorders, violins, flutes, cellos and the piano played with such fluency and command by a galaxy of children from Grade 1 to Diploma level gave the listeners joy, not forgetting the melodious soft voices of the high scoring singers.

While the performers displayed the impeccable standards required by the ABRSM to be outstanding, some showed a nervousness not uncommon at such a celebration. Others shone high in the firmament of music and deserve special mention. Sebastian Bentjerodt’s rendition of Blackwell’s Wilde West on the cello gave the audience the satisfaction of listening to someone who showed signs of enjoying his playing.

The romance of Rimsky Korsakoff’s Song of India although shortened, was performed on the violin by young Navin Kulasinghe with confidence and such mature feeling that it transported the listener to a land of magic. Another violinist with a musical future Kavishka Paranavithana, displayed a brilliant stage presence with a lively rendition of August Nolch’s Hungarian Dance.

Evoking the Tarantella’s dangerous presence with confidence, Heman Anthony on the cello did justice to W.H. Squire’s masterpiece. Talking of confident playing with a flair usually not present in youth, Sachiththa Fernando enjoyed his performance of the virtuoso Polichinelle of Rachmaninoff as much as we did listening and seeing his stage presence. Sanuja Goonetilleke displayed mastery on the flute, weaving in and out of the complicated rhythms of Mike Mower’s Bossa-Merengova. On the piano, Ekodi Wickremaarachchi played Brahms’s finger-twisting and difficult Rhapsody in
G Minor with a little excusable temerity giving the audience a refreshing glimpse of her virtuosity. Special mention must be made of the efficient and quick distribution of the many glittering awards.

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