Fresh from a successful Melbourne concert at Haileybury College on 12 September, the Sri Lanka Harmony Choir, ConChord, was a huge hit in Sydney one week later.
Singing in English, Tamil, Sinhalese and even Welsh, the choir brought the 350 strong audience in Sydney to its feet with a finale of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujiah’. A vibrant encore of local Baila (dance) numbers had happy people dancing in the aisles. The Melbourne concert drew an even a bigger audience.
The highlights were many and included young Rizwan singing ‘Circle of Life’ from the Lion King; choirmaster Rushan Hewawasam and the beautiful voices of sisters Rashika and Savindri in sweet harmony on ‘Panis Angelicus’; Teruni singing ‘Any dream will do’ with the juniors and sing-alongs from The Sound of Music and Sister Act. Four young male singers and the compère flew in from Sri Lanka at their own expense just to join ConChord in these songfests. The choir was accompanied by a range of musicians at the piano, ’cello, violin, saxophone, drums and guitar.
The Commission for Mission has nurtured the growth of this multi-ethnic and multi-faith choir since a 2012 Pilgrimage to Sri Lanka by 10 ministers of the UCA. The shared stories of pain from a 26-year civil war as well as personal joy experienced in growing up in this island paradise would bring energy to reconciliation work here in Australia. It is a unique choir with a dual focus of making great music while carrying a message of peace and reconciliation for Sri Lankans and others. It is harmonised and unified in one ‘journey’.
In 2014 Uniting Through Faiths organised the first Harmony Day for the Sri Lankan community and the Harmony Choir (ConChord) was born. This year marked its first foray into Sydney and they were hosted warmly by the Sri Lanka Reconciliation Forum.
More than 50 Sri Lankans of all ethnicities make up this semi-professional choir of seniors and juniors. It is growing in size and is all voluntary, involving many hours of practice and planning. It is becoming a model Sri Lankan multi-faith and multi-ethnic family where people bring their skills and energy and share their food and fellowship.
They hope to perform again at the 2016 Harmony Day in March and have other engagements lined up for next year. The future includes spreading this message of peace and harmony through music and song in other regions of Melbourne as well as other states and perhaps Sri Lankan as well.
Larry Marshall is project manager with Uniting Through Faiths.