Buoni amiche e Camerati | Sunday Observer

Buoni amiche e Camerati

When close friends meet regularly, and have a common passion, it is not unusual for something extraordinary to take root. The Buoni Amiche stage was when six friends – Darshi, Inakshi, Kumudini, Melanie, Neomi and Sherene decided to meet up on a regular basis for a chat and a song, simply because they enjoyed each other’s company. Thus started a comraderie which they aptly termed ‘Camerati’.

In the music world, there are others who started out the same way. Among the most popular are perhaps Bathiya and Santhush, and the group ‘Flame’. There is a common thread that runs through all three of these musical groups. Apart from their passion for music, it is the time they spent together as the Merry An Singers, under the tutelage of one of the finest vocal coaches Sri Lanka has been blessed with – Mary Anne David.

Over the years, Camerati has grown from six to ten members – all of who were members of the Merry An Singers, thus bringing about a blending of style and texture of singing. These ten ladies are from different walks of life and different professions and of varying ages, but the common passion for making music together strongly defines their choral ensemble. Singing together is a constant reminder of their shared values which strengthens their bond and challenges them to keep pushing the bar.

Trained voices

One might wonder what defines Camerati to stand out in the crowd? After all, there are so many choirs in Sri Lanka.....! Listening to them sing, the answer stares you in the face. These voices are in a class of their own. These are trained voices. Their pitching, range, tone, clarity, control, smoothness, clear enunciation, voice projection and breath control do take your breath away! With those tools already in place, Camerati is able to master the interpretation of a wide range of  repertoire ranging from gospel to classical to jazz, barbershop, show-tunes and pop.

One way of assessing how good a choir is, is by pitting it against other choirs in competition. In September 2016, Camerati presented a sell out debut concert named ‘Make a Joyful Noise’. The overwhelming response they received spurred them on to pit themselves against other choirs at an international level. In October the same year they competed in the first Lanna International Choir competition in Chiang Mai, Thailand – an Interkultur competition; entering 2 categories of competition – ‘Female Choirs’ and ‘Gospel and Spiritual’. As expected they won Gold Medals in both categories, but more significantly they were adjudged as Category Winners in both – which is an honour very few choirs in the world have been able to achieve. Camerati was also one of the seven choirs chosen to participate in the Grand Finale of the competition. A year later, they won Silver at the Grand Prix of Nations at the Asia Pacific Choir games – also organised by Interkultur – and hosted in Colombo. Camerati is currently ranked 28th in the world for female choirs – the only Sri Lankan female choir in the top 50!

Camerati’s last concert at the Sooriya Village in 2018 centered around creating an intimate evening of music and fellowship, titled ‘Harmonies for the Holidays’ They were accompanied by Nishantha Warnakulasuriya (keyboard) and Eshantha Perera (Drums). As the concert progressed, the all female ensemble was joined by a group of male singers who dubbed themselves the ‘Toes to the Tees’!!!! One wondered if the passionate singing of these ladies would have enchanted those guys on to their knees?

Tribute

Year 2019 saw a shift in focus towards arranging and recording music starting with a tribute to Sri Lanka following the horrific Easter Bombings in Sri Lanka; where the group released their own rendition of a medley dedicated to those lost and grieving: ‘It Is Well With My Soul / Somewhere’.

Camerati’s Facebook page has constant video updates of new covers done by them. All these songs go through a process referred to as ‘camerati-fy’ wherein the songs are customised to maximise the vocal and interpretational versatilities of the voices. A stunning arrangement and video recording of their own Lion King medley ‘From the Pridelands’ with excerpts of songs from the movie and Broadway musical ahead of the live adaptation’s release in July 2019, resulted in an immediate invitation to perform at ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone – The Concert’ organised by Soundscope, which featured a top notch line-up of musicians performing to raise funds for families affected by the Easter Sunday attacks.

Despite their knack and mastery of a-capella singing, Camerati have also worked with some of the heavyweights in the instrumental arena in Sri lanka, having been accompanied by Nishantha Warnakulasuriya, Melissa Pereira, Nuran Gomez, Neranjan de Silva and Shehan ‘Babs’ Wijemanne, who apart from their superior instrumental expertise, developed proficiency in patience in dealing with never ending requests to change arrangements, keys and dynamics, and with a willingness to even humour the ladies in their unending experiments.

The Covid-19 lockdown opened another chapter in the life of Camerati. They needed to keep the music alive and their spirits up. The ensemble used their time in isolation to arrange, learn and assemble virtual covers of their music from the comfort of their own homes. Starting with an a-capella snippet of ‘The Lion Sleeps tonight’ in March, the gospel song ‘Above All’ for Easter, and Michael Jackson’s ‘Earth Song’. Their most recent was Toto’s ‘Africa’ which was invaded by some of the ‘Toes’.

These covers, despite being socially distanced, have allowed the group to exercise their creativity to its fullest, allowing the singers to ‘layer’ as many harmonies as they like within a single song. Believe it or not, ‘Earth Song’ has 13 phenomenal parts while ‘Africa’ contains a mind boggling 17 parts! ........and if you thought their talents were limited to singing, guess again – all arrangements, sound mixing and video production for these virtual covers have been done in house! Do check out their versatility of talent on their Facebook page.   

The current members of Camerati are Priyadharishini de Mel, Neomi Muthukuda, Mihara Jayalath, Inakshi de Silva, Vinuri Weerawardena, Anushiya Bastiampillai, Ayushka Nugaliyadda, Sherene Vas, Yanitra Kumaraguru and Melanie Bibile.With their wide repertoire, they perform regularly at church weddings, corporate functions and private events.

Comerati lyrically and melodically memorable, they sing compositions most heard and those not heard so often. Catch their next performance.

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