Young - yet professional | Sunday Observer

Young - yet professional

There was hardly an empty seat at the Lionel Wendt Theatre, two Saturdays ago, when the final performance of Music and Me presented by the Soul Sounds Academy went on boards. The thunderous applause at the end of it all endorsed the fact that the students had done a wonderful performance and kudos to all of them. This was no rap, house or garage genre of music, but songs carefully chosen by the teachers of the Academy to bring out the best in the students and the students themselves did not let down the teachers. They delighted the audience with bright and joyful singing which showcased the confidence not only in their teachers but in themselves. It was with feeling and sincerity that they, together, blended with each other – their actions and dance steps well controlled by their conductor.

The songs that day were varied and yet of a high standard. There were songs from the musicals Boy From Oz, Les Miserables, 101 Dalmatians, The Little Mermaid, Hunchback of Notre Dam and Joseph – King of Dreams.

The selection of songs from the Motown World of music showcased the students versatility in singing The Temptations’ favourite My Girl, ‘Ben E King’s Stand by Me, Michael Jackson’s Will You Be There, and the Jackson Five’s I’ll Be There.

Of course I cannot move on without expressing my appreciation of the students rendition of the chart hits by Queen – We Will Rock You, and Somebody To Love, Alicia Keys Girl on Fire and JayZ-Empire State of Mind. Young though they were the students together had an uncanny carrying power – they reached out to the last row in the hall and to even the balcony, judging the enthusiastic applause that they received. It was remarkable how controlled the entire group of more than 50 singers of varying ages were in their entrances on stage and exits off the stage.

A happy surprise in the programme that day was the inclusion of Mignonne Fernando’s song “Proud to be Sri Lankan’. She was present in the audience to enjoy the interpretation by the students and was certainly very happy.

Mignonne Fernando needs no introduction to our music industry. A leading light, no one has so far equalled her musical stature as the band leader of the very popular Jetliners who held sway not only here in Sri Lanka but also in Hong Kong where the band played continuously for 17 years.

So how did Proud to be Sri Lanka come to be included in the programme?

“Soundarie David Rodrigo contacted me when we faced all the trauma and requested my permission to include the song. I didn’t hesitate. At a time like this it was important that the people stay united as one voice, one unit... united as a nation irrespective of race and religion and my song fitted in appropriately. The children sang the song beautifully and I must congratulate her for that, as well as for the costumes that they wore”. Music and Me by the Soul Sounds Academy was an unqualifying success, that day, the young members singing what they call ‘pure’ singing. They walked on stage with assurance and in modern parlance delivered the goods.