Extracted from The Island, May 24, 2014

By Charmaine De Silva

article_imageEvery once in a while, something extraordinary happens and if the fates are kind, one gets to be a part of it. One such event was Kishani Sings for Visakha on May 11.

I was on holiday in Sri Lanka and visiting a friend on Vajira Road when I saw an unusually large, glamorous poster draped on the wall near the main entrance of Visakha Vidyalaya. Curiosity sent me inside to find out more, and I found myself coming out with tickets for a ‘classical concert on the lighter side’. I have not been a follower or real fan of classical music, however all that changed dramatically after the concert that Sunday. A week later, I am still dreaming about the magical evening that I literally stumbled upon.

I walked in with a general expectation of seeing an above average classical music concert. Armed with little more than just a general idea of vocal music, I was prepared to leave at the interval if the show was not to my taste. Nearly two hours later, I found myself mesmerized and full of admiration not only for Kishani but for Visakha as well.

The school had obviously gone to a lot of trouble to prepare a platform for one of her most illustrious daughters - Kishani had been an all rounder who also shone throughout her school career. The surroundings were immaculate and pristine; with many girls decked in black sporting little badges and managing the vast crowd and energetically and politely ushering in the audience. The giant billboard at the entrance of the hall reminded me of being at a Bollywood function rather than a classical concert at a national school, but if truth be told, I really quite liked it and it certainly set the tone of the evening to come.

From the very start of the evening, one got the feeling that it was going to be a very special night. Upon entering the hall, a warm blue glow enveloped the very wide and deep wooden stage, dressed with two ceremonial brass lamps with thick jasmine strands on either side; a star curtain shimmering discreetly at the back and a cut out of the title in gold suspended from the top. Two screens on either side of the stage boasted the poster that brought me to the concert in the first place and in all it was a very impressive first impression. Sprouting amidst the admiration however, were two major personal concerns. Firstly the prudence of hosting a classical concert in an open and very large space and secondly, worry about the humidity and heat that permeated the place. The first proved to be an unnecessary worry, the second however, was a concern that carried on during the course of the evening. Amazingly however, whilst I was aware of the warmth at the back of my mind, it didn’t actually bother me at all, and certainly not enough to detract from the spell Kishani continued weaving throughout the night.

Arun, the compere for the evening, was his usual charming self. He introduced each piece in detail and seamlessly passed the baton to Kishani, who caught it and glided into the hall like a vision in gold. She carried on the first half with such seamless grace, elegance, confidence and supreme vocal finesse, it was easy to understand how and why the school had placed such honour upon this young performing artiste. The evening started with a medley (a theme that was to present itself throughout the evening) of Classical songs in varied European languages and followed by a segment dedicated to Mothers. Appropriate considering it was Mother’s Day, but it was the choice that had me most interested. Starting with a gut wrenching and exquisitely sung (another theme that would run throughout the evening) piece by Tippet, it went into a Sinhalese folk sing, accompanied almost entirely with touching music from the flute. Admittedly it is the first time I had heard a ‘siu padaya’ sung operatically, but it was innovative and heartbreakingly beautiful. This then led to the most stunning version of Gershwin’s Summertime I have ever heard - an opinion shared by many if the applause afterwards was any indication. Kishani finished off the first half with three Puccini arias. It was obvious she is very much at home in this repertoire as she sang each piece, back to back, with such power and panache and exhibited such quality of voice that the collective mass of 850 bodies in the Hall, seemed completely star struck. At the end of the interval, the audience seemed positively eager to come back for more.

And more indeed we all got. Attired in a silvery blue (perhaps her attire too keeping in line with the blue and gold school colours?) sheath dress covered in sparkles and sporting a stunning necklace one usually only sees in a jewellery display, Kishani started showing us the lighter side she had been billed to present. Starting with a medley from the Sound of Music which had almost every eye in the audience well up with a tear of nostalgia; she went on to a medley from the Musicals. Beautiful tunes and poignant lyrics had the crowd humming along and trying to identify the source of each familiar tune. This was followed by three melting moments from the movies. The final piece for the evening of People from Funny Girl, ended with a breath catching long phrase which had the audience applauding long before the song ended. This brought about a spontaneous standing ovation of the kind that artists must surely dream about. This ovation continued until those who I assume to be the past and present Principals of the school, felicitated this extraordinary young woman with flowers and gifts and returned to their seats. They then went onto an encore of ``I could have danced all night’’ from My Fair Lady that had the crowd clapping to the rhythm of the beat and ended the night with everyone present surely dancing in their hearts.

It was a night to remember. The ensemble led by the very experienced Soundarie David Rodrigo on the piano, was supported with flair by Sureka Amarasinghe on the flute. Satish Casie Chetty on violin and Shamistha De Silva on the cello added an additional dimension to the performance. Jerome De Silva’s lighting was simple but so very effective, creating an ambiance that transported even the most seasoned concert attendee to a magical place. Arun’s comments and Kishani’s own causal interjections informative, amusing and emotional. The organization was meticulous and thorough; the elegant souvenir distributed free of charge was an unexpected bonus. The accolade for Heroine of the Night however, must surely be placed on the very deserving and strong shoulders of Miss Jayasinghe. She held an audience single handedly in the palm of her hand - to pin drop silence - for nearly two hours. There were no gimmicks, guest artists or any other type of filler, just pure unadulterated vocal and performing prowess of the highest calibre. I may not have known very much about either lady at the start of the evening, but by the time the curtain came down, I was a firm fan of both. The steadfast alma mater, Visakha, a clear winner in Her choice of recipient for such adoration and honour. The daughter, Kishani Jayasinghe, a beautiful and gracious Diva and a glittering Ambassador, not only for Visakha but for Sri Lanka as well.


Extracted from The Daily News, June 4, 2014