Spring Concert in Berwick with Conchord Choir            

Conchord and VicWelsh

The combined choirs – Conchord and VicWelsh

By PAUL JARMEN– additional notes by LARRY MARSHALL

Conchord  Choir was born out of the work done by a group from the Uniting Church calling themselves ‘Sri Lanka Invites’ – the brainchild of Executive Director of the CFM, Rev David Pargeter. Their aim was to create Harmony in the divided community of Sri Lankans of different ethnicities and faiths living in Melbourne. Conchord has sung at three annual Harmony Days and the choir has grown to sixty voices and includes Sinhalese, Tamils, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims.

Victoria Welsh Choir were the guests of the Sri Lankan ConChord Choir in a twilight concert in Berwick on Saturday 12 November.

Versatile Welsh compère Drew Hopkins had no trouble pronouncing ConChord’s first bracket conducted by their Musical Director Rushan Hewawasam, who is also a second tenor in VicWelsh.  Coldplay’s Fix You was followed by Can’t Help Falling in Love, You’ve Got a Friend and Wake Me Up. The four part harmonies of this mixed choir with a selection of talented soloists made for a stunning introduction to their distinctive sound.

VicWelsh asked the rhetorical question: What Would I Do Without My Music as an opening number followed by two traditional Welsh tunes – Cwm Rhondda and Yfory – before a virtuoso rendition of Working Man by bass Geoff Serpell.

ConChord then squeezed back on stage to combine beautifully with VicWelsh on Benedictus, conducted by Faleiry and then the lilting Sri Lankan love song Ganga Addara conducted by Rushan.

Throughout the concert, our superb accompanist Lorna Ogilvie played for all but two numbers and she was joined at different times by Bendigo baritone Nigel McGuckian on flute, Pulasthi Gunasekara on percussion and Thilina Madakumbura on tenor sax.

VicWelsh opened the second half with more songs of love in different guises with Men of Harlech in Welsh, The Rose, You’ll Never Walk Alone, the a capella Si Hei Lwli ‘Mabi (a Welsh lullaby which somehow failed to lull any of the numerous babies in the audience) and Anfonaf Angel.

The multi-talented Rushan accompanied ConChord in his own arrangements of Nim Him Sewwa and Chinna Chinna Asai. Stepping back on the podium, he then conducted the choir in Welsh composer Karl Jenkins’ Adiemus followed by an homage to the recently departed Leonard Cohen in Hallelujah and the upbeat You Raise Me Up, all featuring a number of terrific soloists and a sing-along on the last number.

Conductor Rushan Hewawasam receives congratulations.

Conductor Rushan Hewawasam receives congratulations

Before the last two combined pieces, Rushan spoke to the large audience and related how he had learned so much about choral singing and conducting from VicWelsh condictor Faleiry and thanked her publically by singing Suddenly, the specially composed song for the film version of Les Misérables. Teruni Karunaratne sang I Dreamed a Dream, Shazra Abdeen On My Own and Rushan Bring Him Home.

Before the final Waltzing MatildaMaheshini Perera gave the background to VicWelsh’s arrangement, mentioning that, at different venues, the final chorus had been sung at the same time as the Welsh, New Zealand and British national anthems. It was to be the world première of combining it with Rushan’s modified version of the Sri Lankan anthem.

ConChord sang this by themselves first before both choirs launched into the rousing six part, two anthems chorus. It was a fine sight to see many patrons standing up to join in this very special rendering. Soloists were Rashika Gomez and Savindri Perera from ConChord and Graeme Sanderson and Drew from VicWelsh.

Not only has Rushan and the founders of ConChord Choir contributed greatly to furthering the cause of unity in the Sri Lankan community but, by bringing in a Welsh male choir, it proves that two great musical traditions can also come together in total harmony.

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