O come, let us adore Him | Sunday Observer

O come, let us adore Him

S. Thomas’ College, Mt Lavinia choir

Divine adoration by singing has been a hallmark of Christian worship. As the month of yuletide draws closer, many would be rehearsing with their hymn books, with renewed passion, to celebrate the birth of the Christ child. Carols were originally sung during the festival of the Winter Solstice, which was the shortest day of the year. The word ‘carol’ in European tradition meant, to dance. The melodies of Christmas carols familiar to us today, have indeed undergone much transition, down the centuries.


Surprisingly, somewhere during the Middle Ages, people lost their desire to celebrate Christmas! This was later remedied by the gentle apostle, Francis of Assisi, who began the depiction of the nativity where “canticles’ were sung in Latin. Thankfully, the carols have since been sustained. I was bestowed with the privilege of visiting four of the finest Christian schools in Colombo, to witness preparations for their Carol services.

S. Thomas’ College, Mt Lavinia

The refreshing morning breeze of Mt.Lavinia seemed to serenade me, as I mounted the steps leading to the Chapel of the Transfiguration and Rev. Marc Bilimoria, Warden, S. Thomas’ College (STC) greeted me with his solemn smile. The inspiring depiction of the Transfiguration by the late David Paynter has always captivated me. The amazing thing about this mural is that, from wherever you gaze upon it, from within the chapel, the merciful eyes of Christ look intensely at you! The Warden is accompanied by the amiable Fr.Amal, the College Chaplain who explains to me, that the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols has its origins in Kings College, London. The choristers are singing in earnest.

STC has been blessed to be trained by dedicated Choir Masters and organists in the likes of Fr.Gilbert, Fr. Roy Yin, Lucien Nethsingha, Fr.Lucien Fernando and Russel Bartholomuez, who served with immense zeal. The choir can take pride in their rich heritage, dating back to 21September 1854, when they sang for the first time, on St. Matthew’s Day, at the Cathedral (which was then located at Mutwal). The present choir has 50 magnificent voices, where, Avishka Samarasinghe is the student choir leader.

STC carol service is made complete with a Bible reading from the incumbent Anglican Bishop of Colombo. It is a remarkable sight to behold the radiant beams of light that gently deflect off the golden cross carried by the senior sacristan, within the precincts of this sanctum.

Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya

Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya choir

Christmas is a family centered affair. This was the very essence of unison I witnessed as the girls of Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya were busy at practice, gathered around a piano. Their choir Director is the vibrant Dilini Perera.

Their angelic harmony sweetly resonates inside the hall. The school has a senior and primary choir. The choir receives immense support from a trio of dedicated staff, Sureeni Fernando, Ellaine Coonghe and Marlene Perera, in coordinating this annual yuletide celebration.

The choir Director explains that this year’s theme is, ‘He would bring us goodness and joy’. Indeed, that was the primary mission of the Christ child, whose humble birth made him accessible to all people. The gleeful girls are also able to sing in Latin. Isuri Obeysekera and Eleesha Kalpage are the student choir leaders of HFC. The teachers tell me that every facet of the service is organized with the participation of all the schoolgirls, and is an act of thanksgiving to God for his mercies rendered throughout the school year.

This year, some teachers have also come together to manifest their vocal harmony at the carol service that takes place on 15 December. The Familian family has endorsed the Latin phrase “Ubi Concordia, Ibi Victoria”- where there is unity, there is victory.

St. Peter’s College, Bambalapitiya

Another school at Bambalapitiya has entertained audiences for many decades. The boys of St.Peter’s College take great pride in their celestial singing tradition.

Their exuberant teacher in charge, Shanon Rasiah, greets me at the college Chapel. My ears are gladly invaded with the mellifluous joy of 40 voices, venerating Christ in brilliant harmony.

The present choir Director is Yohan de Alwis, who is also a past chorister of the College. Yohan reminisces the golden years of singing in the choir trained by, Priyanthi Seneviratne. The choir of St. Peter’s maintains a long tradition of singing hymns in the Latin rite. For indeed, Latin was the language of church liturgy for centuries. The Peterite choir celebrated 75 years of glorious singing on 5 October1996.

Devin Randeniya is the student choir leader. The carol service is set to take place on 11 December, with the Bishop of Galle, Rev. Fr. Raymond Pieris as the celebrant. The Western Band of the College will also play at this service, where the Teachers’ choir will also join in vocal unison. The present Rector, Rev.Fr. Trevor Martin, a brilliant administrator, is very keen in maintaining high standards for his school choir.

Ladies College, Colombo 7

Ladies College, Colombo 7 choir. Inset: (L) Thivanthi Perera, accompanist and Anushka Abeyratne, Choir teacher

The girls of Ladies College excel in many spheres at school. The senior choir therefore, is a splendid jewel in the College’s crown. I was truly inspired by the glorious delivery of hymns, with such meticulous pronunciation and consonance, that I was briefly transported back in time to the regal splendour of the Elizabethan era, while still seated in the “Chapel of the Hope of the World”. The sacred edifice was consecrated in 1933.The teacher in charge Anushka Abhayaratne, has the distinction of being a past chorister.

She is assisted by the amiable Thivanthi Perera. The choir excelled at the recently concluded Legacy Concert in October. Anushka, an engineer by profession, has gained immense joy by training the 50 girls in her alma mater. Ashna Jeevaratnam and Rachael Brohier are the student choir leaders and continue to uphold the rich legacy of singing, which has existed since 1931. This year, the Anglican Bishop will preside at the carol service scheduled for 2 December. The yuletide polyphony of all these choirs will certainly enhance the radiant spirit of Christmas.

Ad Maiorem Dei Glorium (For the greater glory of God).