In the name of love, compassion and empathy | Sunday Observer

In the name of love, compassion and empathy

16 June, 2019

In the past few years choirs and choral activity in local schools have risen to an exceptional level. Students of all ages are keen on extra-curricular activities than ever before, which is quite a good trend as these help them improve self-confidence and have a balanced personality.

Besides all other extra-curricular activities, choir and choral activities have grabbed the attention of very many students. Music and singing are something that we all cherish from our birth. Showcasing a diverse range of talents, and exploring the boundaries of traditional and contemporary music, for the past many decades school choirs have thrilled and mesmerised audiences.

The S. Thomas’ Preparatory School Choir is one such choir. It is now ready to showcase another mind-blowing show, ‘Be More Kind’ on June 29 (7pm) and 30 (2pm and 7pm), at the Panibharatha Auditorium, University of the Visual and Performing Arts, Colombo 7.

The S.Tomas’ Preparatory School choir is home to many talented youngsters from the ages of 11 to 16 years. Some 35 talented choristers are now ready to hit the stage to showcase their talents in various genres of music from Gospel to Rock to Pop.

Speaking to the Youth Observer, the visionary behind the show, Berklee College of Music alumnus, Sanchitha Wickremesooriya said, “Be More Kind is dedicated to everyone who is lives and serves in the name of love, compassion and empathy.”

Although the theme of the show is pretty much relevant to the current context of the country, Sanchitha says it is a co-incident. They chose the theme last December when his friend Ranil Goonawardena introduced him to Frank Turner’s fabulous song Be more kind to me.

“Although it is a perfect song, I was surprised to realise there wasn’t much reach for it on Youtube. In a way it was a realisation that people are not focused or give their attention to themes like kindness, compassion and empathy. These themes have not been taught to children. So, how can we expect them to have these qualities in their lives when they are adults? That’s why we chose the theme and now it has become much more relevant than at the time we chose it,” Sanchitha said.

The concert - Be More Kind, marks an extremely important celebration in the calendar of S. Thomas’ Preparatory School. The choristers are working day and night tirelessly under the guidance of co-directors Lihan Mendis, Sachi Gamage and Pasan Ranaweera, to ensure a concert better than any other that ever happened in Sri Lanka.

“The children have the privilege of working with some amazing musicians such as Ranil Goonawardena, Tehani Tissera, Johann Peiris and Charith Fernando who have been rehearsing with them for just over a month, pushing their capabilities and giving them a taste of the full professional experience. The hard work and intense sessions put in by our amazingly talented choreographer - Umeshi Rajeendra must be mentioned. He has done a magnificent job translating the lyrics into movement for the children,” Sanchitha said.

Sanchitha has been working with the S. Thomas’ Preparatory School Choir for the past three years, inspiring the children to discover their vocal talents. He has also been creating avenues for the children to discover their true potential in life. “Like last year, this year also the children have to do various activities and submit reports based on their experiences. The activities are related to the theme Be more kind,” he said. “The reason why we wanted to initiate practical activities as well into the process was because there’s no use of learning theories or concepts without having proper practical knowledge or experience,”

Therefore, parallel to choir rehearsals, choristers have to attend group assignments such as cookery workshops (conducted by Giovannis Pizzaria, Waters Edge, The Sushi Bar and Bakes by Bella), growing and nurturing plants, taking care of pets (via Embark) and spend time interviewing beggars, orphans and elders.

“These activities are not initiated by force. The children select activities themselves. However, the difference is that these are not just one time workshops, but have to be continued throughout the year. For example they have to nurture the plants they grow in the school garden and maintain them throughout the year. They also have to cook and take care of the animals throughout the year.

Sometimes, once you do something, then only do you realise whether you really want to continue doing so or not. There are things in our lives we think we are passionate of, but we realise otherwise when we actually start doing them. This is the learning that we wanted to give for the kids and I think so it’s been successful,” sanchitha said.

Explaining the theme of the concert, Sanchitha said, the show ‘Empathy’ was selected in order for the kids to be able to relate to a large variety of demography that would be present as the audience at the concert, allowing each of them to tell their own story in a way that would vibe with different people through the selected musical pieces.

The concert features music all the way from the 60’s to new releases from 2019 with arrangements apt for truly translating the message of kindness and love throughout the whole performance.

The show will also see guest performances by the Old Boys Choir made up of Kusal Bandaranayake, Shamal Fernando, Jason Senanayake, Ashen Benson, Dilshan Fernando, Kevin Fernando, Sean Fernando, Lihan Mendis, Pasan Ranaweera and Sachi Gamage.

“We would also like to especially mention our sponsors Seylan Bank(Silver Sponsor), TNL Radio Networks (Exclusive Radio partner) and (official social media partner) for believing in our massage especially during hard times and coming on board to support us,” Sanchitha said.

Tickets are available at the Prep School Office priced at Rs. 1000 (balcony), Rs. 1500, Rs. 2000 and Rs.2500.

Janith Dasanayake (16) is one of the choristers and he’s been in the school choir from grade 7. According to Janith the immense commitment and guidance of Sanchitha Wickramasooriya eventually paid off at last year’s I will lead, I will follow’ concert and Janith believes that ‘Be more Kind’ will be even better.

“He is respected in the choir and he actually made the difference since he joined. We are so excited about the concert which is coming up and hope to do our best,” he said.

Rushel Fernando (15) joined the choir when he was in Grade 5 and as he remembers at that time carol service was the only glamorous concert that they had in school. “Sanchitha Sir made everything upside down and brought a lot of new energy and vibrance to the school choir. To work with him is so much fun and his thinking is so extraordinary. I love to be in our school choir and we are so excited about the up coming concert,” Rushel said.

Savindu Jayasinghe (14) joined the school choir when he was 10-years-old. As he recalls those days there were no such consistency in the school choir as they had practices only during carol services or especial school events. “After Sanchitha Sir took over the school choir, there were a lot of changes he made and he introduced so many activities and projects other than singing which enhances our thinking and abilities. Through ‘Be more kind’ he introduced activities which help us to understand our own limits and borders of kindness and it gave us opportunity to think about our own selves and be conscious about our actions,” he said.

Udan Ratnayake (14) joined the choir in grade 5 and he’s very much excited about the coming up Be more kind show. He believes the theme of the show is quite essential and apt for the moment. “Besides rehearsing the show what I like most of the concert is the time that we spent at orphanages and the friends I made there. I never got an opportunity in my life to have such friends and listen to their stories and empathise with them and do whatever possible to make their lives comfortable. Be more kind actually changed my life,” Udan said.