Mirror Magazine


Old Jeoes blend music with Evolution
Though the Old Joes Choir hopes to perform quite a few well-known songs, some of them would be rearranged especially to give the show a "live and unplugged" feel.

By Thiruni Kelegama

All set for the big day: The Old Joes Choir photographed at the Crescat Boulevard by Mettasena

Way back in 1940, Frank Zappa stated, "Music in performance is a type of sculpture. The air in the performance is sculpted into something..."

This is the case with "Evolution". The Old Joes Choir certainly will do this. Somehow, the amazing voices of each and every member of the choir rise above the music and manage to freeze the still air.

Yes, music in their case is powerful and personal. Strains of music could be heard as I walked into the Hall where the Old Joes were practising for their maiden mainstream venture. Though quite some distance away, I was captivated.

"Evolution" promises to be the result of all the hard work they are putting in at the moment. Judging from the practices, the evening of music to be held on August 23 and 24 at the Russian Centre, should be a sell out.

The Old Joes Choir was formed in 1997 and has evolved to become one of the leading choral groups in Sri Lanka.

Their forte is not just spiritual and classical music, but also modern contemporary music.

Following their successful launch concert Pregheira in 1999, the choir decided that they want to prove to the music loving public, that they were capable of handling 'everything'. Everything meaning, music from all eras - 18th century classical, Broadway musicals, contemporary music and modern rock.

"Evolution" is a live and unplugged musical which does not comply with the norms of a traditional evening of music. The event is unique, as the repertoire for the evening would range from 18th century classical music to modern contemporary rock. The choir will be accompanied by the Chamber Orchestra. The pianist for the evening is Kamalinie Samarakoon who worked with the Old Joes Choir for Circle of Life, which was produced by Michael Ranasinghe, who is incidentally the producer for "Evolution" too.

"Evolution" is the first step through which the choir hopes to master the art of acapella music and remain a choir that provides entertainment for everyone. Their focus is set on evolving from a choir that focused only on spiritual music, to one which would be able to perform any type of music in a spirit of innovation.

"We will be starting off the concert with a few classical songs before moving on to more modern contemporary numbers. Some of the items will be sung acapella while others would be backed by an ensemble comprising a small string orchestra, a piano, a few guitars, an acoustic drum set and congo drums," said the leader of the choir Dayan Gunasekara.

Though the Old Joes Choir hopes to perform quite a few well-known songs, some of them would be rearranged specially to give it a "live and unplugged" feel which they have chosen to be the underlying theme of the concert. They also intend to feature a few soloists, backed by the choir and the orchestra to add a bit of variety to the evening.

"It is certainly not going to be the same old evening of music - we would be keeping with the norms of what is accepted by a choir, but it would be different," stresses Michael Ranasinghe. "We would be having different costumes, and there would certainly be some dramatisation on behalf of the choir members to keep the audience entertained."

Music comes in different types, styles and forms. That is why they have a programme that features music from artistes like The Corrs, Queen, The Beatles, Elton John, Duran Duran and even the rock group Train!

"We also plan to give the audience a glimpse of Broadway with scenes from the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical Evita," says Shanaka Cooray, the former leader of the choir.

The master-mind behind the whole show is Deshan Cooray, choral director. He has re-worked most of the songs with the assistance of Damien of Wildfire and Eshantha Pieris. "I did not want "Evolution" to be concentrated only on classical music. It had to have everything in it - ranging from Bach, Schubert to Evita, Queen and Trian."

"The re-working was done in a manner so that there would be a fusion of everything. You could listen to the classical segment and hear something you would like in it - the fusion is obvious.

It is the same with the non-classical half which consists of mostly rock songs, which does incorporate hints of classical music in it," he added. "However, nothing has been hacked!" he promises with a laugh.

"Creative" is the key word here. "We wanted to do something which would prove to everyone that we are competent enough to handle any type of music. Ever since we performed at the Symphony Orchestra Christmas Concert in 2001, we have wanted to do something of our own," says Dayan.

"The idea was to branch out and project ourselves as a contemporary outfit. We have evolved from just another choir to one that is not afraid to experiment with anything. Therefore, we called this maiden performance in which we would be different "Evolution", as we would be proving this to the audience. Most people like to listen to different types of music, therefore we made sure this show would cater to everyone," he added.

"We wanted it to be personal...making the audience realise the difference in our choir," says Michael, and also that "we can handle anything - be it a piece by Bach or Queen or the Beatles."

The main sponsor for "Evolution" is Sinwa Footwear, and the co-sponsors are Elephant Cream Soda, 101.7 TNL, Lite 89.2 and The Sunday Times.

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