It has been a while, but it is never too late to note that on March 7th Western Classical Music aficionados were in for a treat, namely the performance of Verdi’s Requiem by the Symphony Orchestra and a choir of about a 100 held at the Cathedral next to the BMICH. I will not comment on the music or the singing as I am merely a listener and not a critic, but all I can say is I enjoyed it knowing it was not going to be light or easy to concentrate on. There were 4 soloists, two Sri Lankan Ladies and two Gentlemen from India.
It was a free performance, as requested by the Late Earl De Fonseka in his will, and a foreign friend of mine, commented that it would indeed be rare if not never that a performance of such quality would not have a charge in his native Europe.
I had a personal interest in it as three of my cousins, all sisters and their parents were all in the Choir, and there were many of my relatives present to wish them well, making it all the more important to me both to attend by making a special effort to come to Colombo on that day and change my schedule.
It was indeed notable by Sri Lanka standards that even though I got to the 7pm performance at 5.30, we had to sit quite far back, and I am told that the gates were shut before 7pm shutting the typical latecomers as the Cathedral once packed would have been dangerous to house more. I am sure that were many who would have been very disappointed. It was for various reasons not practical to repeat the performance the next day, but it could not be had at a later date, as the visiting Conductor, Geoffrey Rose and other participants had come from overseas and were on a limited time schedule.
I have followed the progress of the rehearsals from my cousins and know it was quite an effort to get so many people in one place for practice of such a difficult masterpiece. The arduous practice and time commitment of all these busy people who performed this on a purely voluntary capacity, was truly admirable and should be commended.
I hope it is not a further 40 years before such a performance takes place again, as then it becomes a once in a life-time event for a lucky few. We must realize one important fact from this performance, namely that we have singers of international caliber. I have also noted that some of our choirs have gone overseas for competitions and returned with awards further verifying my statement.
It is important that the arts, both western and eastern and traditional are encouraged as the level of a civilization and therefore the level of development of a country depends on the state of its arts in all its forms.
There is a considerable amount of latent talent in the country for this sort of thing and one cannot blame the state for the lack or resources to encourage this art form, It is hoped that private enterprise and individuals will step in to assist this just as in the case of Earl De Fonseka who was a physician who pursued this interest and left a bequest to the nation to further encourage its upliftment. Our sincere thanks must go to him and his memory.