5th December 1999
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A view from the hillsPotent launch and impotent sound! 

Sometimes one wonders at the claims made by some of our venues. They keep insisting that they are equipped with all facilities for conferences, workshops, symposia and the like. We are made to believe that their auditoriums are equipped with the best there is. At the launch of Dr. Nihal Karunaratna's latest book, "Kandy - Past and Present'' the hotel venue provided the necessary fittings....and the required sound system. The launch was chaired by Professor K. M. de Silva and the Chief Guest was Kalakeerthi Lorna Devaraja. Speakers included Professor P.L. Prematillake and H. D. S. Hettipathirana. Everything went well, but practically all the guests said later, they couldn't hear or understand anything that was said. One Fulbright scholar who sat, quite bewildered, later told me that it was all interesting and challenging. ''I caught little snatches,'' she said. "Now I have to use my imagination and fill in the blanks.'' 

What intrigued me was the quite impotent microphone that refused to stay up! As each speaker confronted it, it sagged miserably and needed the assistance of a technician to keep angling it upwards and pleading to it to perform! Anyway, the launch was a huge success. The Mayor was there and so was Dr. Nissanka Wijeyeratne and Professor Breck of Trinity and many prominent persons from the University and the professions. And decidedly, the hotel like its microphone, should hang its head. One little glitch made a most important occasion a bit droopy.

Counselling for cancer patients 
Met Dr. A. S. Ismail recently. The good doctor is the head of the Cancer Home at Hantane Road, and he had a lot to say about the inauguration of the Volunteer Counselling Service for cancer patients and their families. "Cancer specialists have requested that we have this counselling service,'' he said, "because they lack the time to do so and because counselling is an important part of cancer care. Many patients and their families lack knowledge, look on cancer as a no-hope condition and are full of fear. What is more, families find that caring for a patient at home is a heavy burden and this confrontation with cancer seems to mentally affect everyone." What Dr. Ismail believes is that cancer patients need a supportive environment in which they can live more fully without the feeling of isolation. 

He is now calling for volunteers who will be trained to understand and appreciate the special needs of cancer patients, be sensitive to their condition and relate to them with understanding. Programme Co-ordinator Erica Weerakoon who is now calling for interested volunteers, says that a full training programme will start in January 2000 and that the service should be in place by February. As Dr. Ismail says, Kandy may soon have the most caring and supportive service ever for cancer patients and their families and he is confident that the service will do much good and also foster a spirit of togetherness and a deeper sense of humanity as volunteers from many walks of life take time to care for the sufferings of others.

Evelyn Nurseries to sing in Christmas
Seventy years ago, the English missionary Lena Chapman retired as Principal of Hillwood, Kandy, to start the Evelyn Nurseries - a home for poor and destitute girls in and around Kandy. Funds were provided by Lena's sister Evelyn.

Today, the Home provides food, shelter and education for 40 children, running entirely on private donations. Also, there is a non-fee levying Day Care Centre. 

The children of Evelyn Nurseries would love to have the people of Kandy join them at their Carol Service which will be held at St. Paul's on Sunday, December 12. The Nurseries choir is trained by Rani de Pinto. 

The Home's secretary, Vijayalakshmi Dissanaike tells me that the young singers, who find the season of Christmas peace truly magical, look forward to a large audience as in the years before. They will sing primarily for peace and the welfare of children throughout the land.

Strings in harmony

Review of the inaugural concert of the Krasna Chamber Ensemble on November 26 at the Navarangahala.

The Krasna Chamber Ensemble, a brainchild of our own violin virtuoso Ananda Dabare gave their inaugural concert at the Navarangahala on Friday November 26. 

This Ensemble formed with the idea of increasing the numbers and improving the skills of string players in Sri Lanka has undoubtedly made an auspicious beginning, and all who were present at the concert will, I am sure, wish them well. 

Their programme was a well-chosen one and it was a source of disappointment that it had not attracted a wider audience, who I am sure would have enjoyed the performance. The Concert commenced with Bach's Third Brandenburg Concerto in G major. These concertos commissioned by the Margrave of Brandenburg are, in the words of Schweitzer, "the purest products of Bach's polyphonic style". The 3rd, which features no solo instrument, was an ideal vehicle for the Krasna Ensemble to display their ability to play as a string ensemble together with a clean tone and good technique. Though not wishing to sound like a male chauvinist it was indeed gratifying to see so many of the male gender taking to the strings and the violas were in fact male dominated. We hope that Sri Lankan young men will no longer fight shy of playing string instruments or consider it a "cissy" thing to do. 

William Boyce, whose Symphony No. 1 was next on the programme was an organist and composer living in England during the 18th century. Better known for his organ and church music, he also composed 20 symphonies and overtures. This symphony which was transcribed by Constant Lambert was in three short movements and provided a fitting contrast to the preceding Brandenburg Concerto and the succeeding popular Divertimento in D major No. 1 by Mozart. 

After the interval the Ensemble played Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. The concert concluded with Bach's Double Violin Concerto in Major, the slow movement of which happens to be one of my favourite pieces of music. I have heard Ananda Dabare playing this with Lakshman Joseph and the Colombo Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble under Rohan Joseph de Saram some years ago. It is a pity that we have not had the opportunity of hearing Lakshman Joseph play for some years now. 

The very nature of the Kresna Ensemble choice of music exposed them to criticism. Most of the pieces chosen are so well-known and found in innumerable recordings that one is inclined to compare the Ensemble's performance with other chamber groups such as the Academy of St. Martin's-in-the-Field's Chamber Ensemble. That the Ensemble fell short of such high standards is inevitable, but credit must be given to Ananda Dabare and the rest for an auspicious start with the hope that the Ensemble will grow from strength to strength.

The repertoire available to a chamber ensemble such as this is limitless and going beyond Mozart and Bach, Haydn and Vivaldi, one can range far and wide. By co-opting oboes and horns, an even greater choice of music is possible. The choice of venue, though was unfortunate as the acoustics were detrimental to the enjoyment of chamber music such as this.

- Dr. Lalith

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