EXCELSIOR! From Cradle to Glory

Dec 12 2023.

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With Christmas, a special time of the year coming up, the choir Sangeet directed by Sanjeev Jayaratnam who needs no introduction will perform a variety of Christmas music at their upcoming show Excelsior! “From Cradle to Glory.” It will be held on December 19th and 20th at the  Lionel Wendt Theatre. We had a chat with Choral Director Sanjeev Jayaratnam.

Q WHAT IS THE REASON FOR HAVING A CONCERT OF THIS NATURE?
We really wanted to do something for Christmas as there is such a range of emotions and music that can be performed. It’s also such a special time of the year, so when we asked the singers what they would like to do next, the unanimous answer was – let’s do a Christmas show. So here we are.

Q CAN YOU BRIEFLY DESCRIBE THE CONCERT?
The concert has been put together blending a variety of genres to ensure that it resonates with a wide audience. From classical to pop and from sacred to secular and also comedy, there is a little piece of something for everyone.

Q WHAT ARE SOME OF THE POPULAR OR WELL-KNOWN SONGS THAT WILL BE PERFORMED AT THE CONCERT?
We will be performing some popular songs from contemporary artists such as Kelly Clarkson, Mariah Carey and Pentatonix in addition to well-loved carols such as Joy to the World and Carol of the Bells, all with our unique harmonies, execution and twists on it. We are also performing for the first time in Sri Lanka (we believe) Bohemian Rhapsody which is really exciting. And also some really challenging pieces like O Magnum Mysterium which has so many layers of interpretation and some of the most exquisite harmonies ever. It’s really a diverse selection of music which will appeal to all music lovers

Q CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE GROUP SANGEET?
We have a very diverse set of people in Sangeet, from 14 to 50 plus in age, from different walks of life, all of whom are gifted in singing. They have blended together as one team to make amazing music and lifelong friendships. We are proud to have all religions and races represented in the group.

Q WHEN WAS IT FORMED AND WHAT ARE ITS MAIN AIMS AND OBJECTIVES?
Sangeet was formed in October 2022 by Soundarie David Rodrigo and myself, with the aim of building a choral outfit comprising people of different ages, races, religions and backgrounds bound together with their love for music and singing. We aim to be a world-class choir providing world-class entertainment to our audiences while actively promoting unity, diversity and excellence through choral music. We just don’t aim to sing but to entertain, inspire and give hope through our music. We are striving to make Sangeet truly world-class not only in our music but in everything we do.

Q YOU MENTIONED THAT ALL THE MEMBERS OF SANGEET WILL BE INVOLVED IN THE PRODUCTION – WHAT ARE THE AREAS THEY WILL BE PARTICIPATING IN?
Sangeet is a true community choir where the choristers have got involved in every aspect of the show including costume/set design, fundraising, arranging music, compiling the digital souvenir, social media, awareness and branding. Everyone plays a role according to capability and interest. Everyone is accountable and responsible for what they take on. So being a member of Sangeet also means practising values of commitment, discipline, teamwork, excellence, determination, accountability, integrity and more. We have a great group of people who have stepped up and taken leadership in so many different aspects of the show thereby taking a huge load off my shoulders.

Q WHO ARE SOME OF THE MAIN PARTICIPANTS AT THE SHOW?
We have a great team involved in the production. We have Julian Anderson who has done a fabulous job with the choreography for the show. We also have Neranjan de Silva on Keyboards, Niroshan de Silva on Drums and Percussion and Daveena Edmund on the Digital Grand Piano. Kevin Cruze is helping us with the lighting design and execution. We are using the wonderful acoustics of the Lionel Wendt in its purest form, with absolutely no sound enhancement or amplification.

Q YOU HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN SINGING, ACTING AND THE THEATRE FOR A CONSIDERABLE TIME, HOW DOES THIS MUSICAL/CONCERT COMPARE TO SOME OF YOUR PREVIOUS PRODUCTIONS?
Yes, I have. What makes this special is the unique mix of people we have in the group. Also, the diversity of music we will have on stage. It’s also special because many of the arrangements you will hear have been put together by the members themselves, notably Manique Abeyratne and Shevan de Alwis who have done a fabulous job.

Q WHAT ARE SOME OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR INVOLVEMENT IN MUSIC AND THE THEATRE?
Well, I guess the first that comes to mind is forming The Revelations with the late Mahen Peiris and then continuing to lead the group for over two decades. We toured and performed overseas in many countries and were blessed to be able to win many competitions and put Sri Lanka on the choral music map so to speak, most special amongst them being crowned World Champions twice in Graz, Austria, in 2008 and being ranked 4 th in the World at the time.

Thereafter I conducted the Visakha Vidyalaya Senior Choir and was fortunate to help them win a Gold Diploma in an international competition. A first for a government school I think.

I then went on to conduct the Methodist College Choir for ten years during which time, they became the best youth choir in the Asia Pacific Region winning many titles and awards, amongst which is probably the only Platinum Medal to have been won.

I also formed the Revelations Academy together with Ishan de Lanerolle and Srimanthaka Senanayake (of the Revelations) and we continued to help develop the performing arts of children, teens and adults in the country, writing and executing an original children's musical together with my brother Krishan Jayaratnam along the way. The Academy participated in many international competitions both here and abroad and won many golds.

Finally, I formed ‘Noted’ an ensemble of young adult female voices, which won a gold medal and also their category at the Asia-Pacific Choir Games held in Colombo.

I have been truly fortunate and blessed to have had the opportunity of working with such awesome singers, musicians and human beings over the years.

Q HOW ARE THE TICKETS PRICED AND WHERE CAN THEY BE PURCHASED?
Tickets are very reasonably priced from Rs 1,000 upwards as we want our audience to be filled with all music lovers. You can book your tickets in advance by calling Shevaan on 076 681 1935 or Sasanda on 071 106 3772.

TEXT Kshalini Nonis

PIX BY Pradeep Dilrukshana



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