A musician par excellence | Sunday Observer
Bassoonist Uthsara

A musician par excellence

Uthsara Malaweera Arachchi (21) is a young bassoonist who has already made his mark in the Sri Lankan music sphere. In 2017, he made his solo debut performing with the Chamber Music Society of Sri Lanka led by Lakshman Joseph de Saram in the World Premiere of Stephen Allen’s ‘River Shadows Rhapsody for Bassoon and Strings’ at the Lionel Wendt Theatre.

Reviewing the performance in ‘Ceylon Today’ Ranga Chandraratne said, “ The World Premiere of Stephen Allen’s ‘River Shadows Rhapsody for bassoon and strings’ was a beautiful elegy that never left the comfortable sound world of dreamy Debussy.

There were fleeting episodes from the violin and cello , but it was the bassoon who carried the bulk of the narrative. The soloist, the principal Bassoonist of the CMSC, Uthsara Malaweera Arachchi displayed a confidence way above his age and a technique that never got in the way of the music. The playing was quite special, delivering Allen’s haunting score with a clear understanding of the style and substance.”

The bassoon is not everybody’s instrument as it is complex and difficult to master and it says much for Uthsara’s musical ability and grit and determination for him to have become the bassoonist par excellence that he has become today.

Uthsara’s love affair with the bassoon began when he joined the ‘National Youth Orchestra’ in 2012. Though, he originally picked on the flute as his instrument of choice he soon realised it was not for him and switched to the bassoon. He immediately realised that the bassoon was his instrument and it became his passion in music. He started his training on the bassoon with the late Dayananda Fernando and after a while rose to the position of Principal Bassoonist of the National Youth Orchestra of Sri Lanka. Currently, Uthsara is also the principal bassoonist of the Gustav Mahler Society of Colombo (GMSC) and also plays for the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka and the Colombo wind Orchestra. He was a bassoonist with the Junior Symphony Orchestra as well.

Music exams

Uthsara was initiated into the world of music when he was in Grade 5 but his close encounter with the piano did not work out as expected.

Studying the bassoon under the late Dayananda Fernando, Uthsara passed the Grade 5 examination of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) with flying colours in 2014 obtaining a distinction. The next important step for Uthsara was passing the Associate of Trinity College London diploma Examination (ATCL). Uthsara received valued and generous guidance to overcome this musical hurdle from Dr. Dilan Angunawela, himself an excellent pianist.

In August 2016, Uthsara received a bursary award to attend the European Youth Summer Music Camp (EYSM) Surrey, England. lt is a week- long residential camp for instrumentalists and singers from the global music community. This was an invaluable opportunity for Uthsara.

The camp took place a little before his ATCL exam in November 2016 and he was able to get help and tips from the international community of musicians who gathered there. He was especially lucky to have been taken under the wing of Iona Garvie, a professional bassoonist living and working in the UK.

Two highlights of Uthsara’s journey in music are his performances in 2013 with the Commonwealth Festival Orchestra (CFO) held in 2013 at the Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre and the 2015 performance with the Newman Choir and Orchestra in Bombay, India. At this concert held at the Tata Theatre in Mumbai, Uthsara was part of the orchestra which performed Haydn’s Missa in Tempore Belli.In January 2020, Uthsara performed at the ‘Young Musician’s at the Wendt Concert ‘organised by the the Lionel Wendt Foundation. He performed the first movement from Saint-Saëns’ Sonata for Bassoon and Piano in G major, Op 168 and Ken Cooper’s Jazz Suite for Bassoon, Piano and String Bass along with pianist Anagi Gunasekara and Bassist Andrea Leitan. This was quite a momentous occasion as it was the first time jazz on the bassoon was performed at a public concert in Sri Lanka.

Several hats

Uthsara is a young man who wears several hats. In addition to being a Bassoonist he is an undergraduate at the College of Chemical Sciences of the Institute of Chemistry, Ceylon following the Graduateship Qualification in Chemistry.

He is the current President of the Gavel Club of the College of Chemical Sciences, which is an affiliate of Toastmasters International. He is also the Director of International Service of the Rotaract Club of the College of Chemical Sciences and is responsible for carrying out projects in the region collaborating with other clubs.

Uthsara began his school career at Vidura College, Colombo and then moved on to D.S. Senanayake College, Colombo and finally to Ananda College, Colombo. He was the first president of the Western Orchestra of Ananda College and was its conductor from 2016 -2019.

Uthsara’s taste in music spreads across a wide spectrum. In western classical music Mozart and Beethoven remain all time favourites. He also digs music of the nineties and Aerosmith, ABBA and Frank Sinatra are among his top favourites. He listens to music while travelling especially to symphonies. He also watches movies for relaxation.

Uthsara enjoys spending time with his golden retriever, Summer. This very talented musician says he is where he is today because of his parents Uditha Hiroshana and Darshika Bandularatne.

He is also very appreciative of the support of his sisters and close relatives. Uthsara also acknowledges gratefully the help and mentorship of the late Dayananda Fernando, Manilal Weerakoon, Ushitha Samarakoon and Dr. Dilan Angunawela.

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