RCWO Annual Concert ’17: From a Far-Fetched Idea, to a Standing Ovation

The Annual Concert ’17, organized by the Royal College Western Orchestra and the Western Music Society of Royal College, was held on January 28th,  6.30pm onwards at the Royal College Main Hall. The Concert’s performances included a wide range of orchestral music, from Compositions from the Baroque Era, to Modern classics. The RCWO was also joined by the Royal College Choir, while the Concert also featured a guest performance by the Orchestra of Lyceum International School, Nugegoda.

The pieces for the evening were conducted by three well-known individuals in the field of music: Bernard Wacheux, Prof. Ajit Abeysekera and Srimal Weerasinghe.

Our Special Guest Conductor for the evening, Bernard Wacheux, is a well-known French Conductor and Violinist as well as a Saxophonist, who started his career in Germany with the orchestras of Frankfurt and Koblenz. He is an avid jazz lover, has appeared on many multi-national TV programmes, and has been leading the “French Soloists” orchestra of France for 10 years. Prof. Ajit Abeysekera is a performing member of the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka. He was also one of its conductors from the year 1996 to 2016. He is an Old Royalist as well as an Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura. Srimal Weerasinghe, currently performs as the Principal Oboe of the National Youth Orchestra of Sri Lanka and the Colombo Wind Orchestra, while he also performs regularly at the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka and the Chamber Music Society of Colombo. His Career as a Conductor began in 2015, under the guidance of Manilal Weerakoon. He is the Assistant Conductor of the Junior Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka, and a Music Teacher and Conductor at The Music Project. The RCWO emerged 1st Place at the All Island Western Music & Dance Competition – Orchestra Category in both 2015 and 2016 under his baton.

The Concert featured a variety of compositions, from Classical Masterpieces to Famous Movie Soundtracks. From the Classical Era, the RCWO performed March in C (KV 408/1) & Overture to The Marriage of Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as well as Symphony No. 5 in C Minor – Finale (Op. 67) composed by Ludwig van Beethoven and arranged by Ralph Matesky. The Royal College Choir also joined the RCWO for their performances of For unto Us a Child Is Born from Messiah Part 1 – Scene 3 by George Frideric Handel and Time To Say Goodbye by Andrea Bocelli. The Performances also included Slavonic Dance No. 01 (Op. 72) by Antonin Dvorak, Gabriel’s Oboe (Theme from “The Mission”) by Ennio Morricone, which featured a Solo Performance by Oboist Srimal Weerasinghe, as well as Danno Budunge by Vishwanath Laoji.

Founded in 1999 with the consent of H.L.B. Gomez, the principal of Royal College at the time, the Royal College Western Orchestra, since its inception, had had several trainers from the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka (SOSL) as well as the National Youth Orchestra (NYO). The orchestra held its first public performance in 2002, conducted by Prof. Ajit Abeysekera, a conductor at the SOSL. Amal Abeysekera was the concertmaster of the orchestra. After a prolonged hiatus, the RCWO was re-established in 2015, with Srimal Weerasinghe as the Conductor and Priyanthi Sudusinghe as the Teacher-in Charge. Nisal Jinadasa was the concertmaster. Its first performance was at the All Island Western Music & Dance Competition 2015, where it competed against some of the best school orchestras of Sri Lanka and secured 1st Place.

Soon after the All-Island Competition, the orchestra began to perform at a variety of events. The year after, the RCWO was invited to perform at the 137th Battle of the Blues Media Conference, which was the springboard to our continued success. The orchestra performed Amigos Para Sempre as well as the School Anthems of Royal College and St. Thomas’ College, along with the Orchestra of St. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia, as well as the renowned De Lanerolle Brothers. More performances soon followed, with the orchestra being invited to perform at the Annual Colours Awarding Ceremony 2015 and the Annual Band & Orchestra Concert of Lyceum International School, Nugegoda. Getting to the point where the Orchestra is at present was by no means a cakewalk. The process of reviving a defunct school orchestra: from catching the attention of Western Music students at school to being able to emerge as Champions at the All-Island Western Music and Dance Competitions only a few months after commencing rehearsals was extremely strenuous and yet, after facing all obstacles and shining through, the radical idea of organising an orchestra concert was brought up. The RCWO made the bold decision to take on the task of making this dream reality in order to add to the success of the Orchestra as well as solidifying its reputation as one of the best of its kind.

This concert has definitely managed reach milestones and first-times, the most important being that it was the first time in recorded history that the School Song was both sung and performed by the Royal College Western Orchestra and the Royal College Choir. The orchestra also received a standing ovation by the entire audience at the end of the evening, which by the performers especially, would be considered the most memorable aspect of the experience.

This concert would not have been a mere possibility if not for the efforts of a numner of individuals, who worked tirelessly, day in & day out to ensure that this concert was a success. Our Conncertmaster, Nisal Jinadasa and our conductor, Srimal Weerasinge, showed true commitment and leadership during our rehearsals, not only improving the musical aspect of the concert, but also in organizing this event. Our Co-Student Coordinators, Jithnuka Samaraweera and Kavisha Chandraratne, without whom organizing a concert of this scale would’ve been a daunting task, worked till the late hours each night, to make sure everything from the souvenirs to rehearsals, were  carried out smoothly. During the weeks leading up to the Concert, sectional practices were carried out for String Section by Dilpahan Mallikarachchi, a Professional Music Teacher who also performed at the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka and the Krasna Chamber Ensemble, while Wind Sectional Practices were carried out by Toshiaki Kamada and Sugath Weerasekera. Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to these few individuals who worked tirelessly to improve the quality of each section, putting aside their busy schedule and committing themselves to the betterment of the orchestra. And finally, our Teacher-in-Charge, Mrs. Priyanthi Sudusinghe, who was force that drove us all towards this successful event, dedicating herself, sacrificing all her other commitments and pushing through countless obstacles, with no complaints. We as the Royal College Western Orchestra are lucky to have her as our Teacher-in-Charge.