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April 21, 2017
FOSLA Musical Evening: 6 March 2017
Great Hall, City of London School.
Mrs Amari Wijewardene, Her Excellency the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka, members of FOSLA, their guests and musicians from the Royal Academy and other music schools were treated to an evening of music which unleashed Sri Lanka's talents in London.

Baritone Johan de Silva was at home in the Great Hall of his alma mater, City of London Boys School. After performances at the Royal Opera House and English National Opera, as the Third Boy (The Magic Flute, ENO - 2007 and 2009) and the Shepherd Boy (Tosca, ROH, 2009), Johan served as a Chorister at HM's Chapels Royal (St. James's Palace), singing on occasion to members of the Royal Family during both private and public events. In recent years as a baritone, he has taken on principal roles in amateur productions of Die Fledermaus and The Cunning Little Vixen. On 6 March, Johan's recital moved from a selection of short songs and lieder, through to a series of operatic and oratorio arias composed by Brahms (Wiegenlied, Sommerabend, Feldeinsamkeit), Schubert (An Sylvia, Ave Maria), Schumann (Excerpts from Dichterliebe), Fauré (Apres un reve), Tchaikovsky (Net, tolko tot, kto znal 'None but the lonely heart'), Mozart (Der vogelfanger bin ich ja - from The Magic Flute, Madamina, il catalogo e questo from Don Giovanni and Deh, vieni alla finestra from Don Giovanni, Mendelssohn (Lord God of Abraham - from Elijah), Handel (Why do the Nations so furiously rage together? from Messiah) and ended with a couple of songs from musicals - Carousel (If I Loved You - from Rodgers and Hammerstein) and Lost in the Stars (Stay Well by Kurt Weill). Johan displayed his versatility singing a variety of styles and also in the range of lyrics, from German, French, Italian, Russian to English. He gripped the audience throughout the forty minute performance with his interpretations. Paul Harrison, Director of Music at the City of London School since September 2006, when Johan first started at the school, a highly accomplished pianist, organist and conductor, accompanied Johan throughout.

The recital was followed with a performance by the internationally renowned Cellist Deshamanya Rohan de Saram, honoured by the President of Sri Lanka. It was an experience to hear the master at play. Fauré's Elegie (accompanied by Paul) was just the beginning of a truly amazing performance. Bach's Prelude, Sarabande and Gigue from Suite no. 3 in C major for solo cello and Pietro Locatelli's Labirinto armonico (transcribed for solo cello by Rohan de Saram from solo violin) followed. The music shifted towards home with 'Improvisations based on Sri Lankan folk tunes and drum rhythms' when Rohan's son Suren, a drummer with the well-known British indie-rock band, the Bombay Bicycle Club and a timpanist/percussionist with the recently formed Oberon Symphony Orchestra, joined him. Suren used a cello bow and his hands to play a western drum kit, usually played with drumsticks. The combination of eastern and western sounds rang out the musical melanges. Dr Marilyn Herman, musician and composer, summed up the "Amazing & unique performances by Johan de Silva, Paul Harrison, Rohan & Suren de Saram: Johan de Silva - great voice! and amazing improvisations of Sri Lankan folk melodies by cellist Rohan de Saram and drummer Suren de Saram".

Sir Peter Heap, the Chairman of FOSLA, in his Vote of Thanks, remarked on the stunning magnificent Walker organ in the Great Hall, a rare resource for school children. It was a suitable backdrop to such an exhilarating performance. As I stepped out of the school building overlooking the Thames, splendidly lit up in the night, and climbed up the stairs opposite St Paul's Cathedral, the music lingered on in my ears.

Dr Shihan Jayasuriya
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