Saturday Magazine

The Wondrous Story ó The Peradeniya Singers in Concert

by Marjorie Peries

The season of Christmas has something magical about it - may be it is the wondrous story of the birth of the Christ child - which was a gift to mankind from God. Or it may be the happy memories associated with Christmas - the excitement of buying and getting gifts, the Christmas trees, Christmas cake, visits to friends and above all the festivities within the Church itself. Special Christmas services, special messages about the birth of Christ and its significance to mankind. Everybody looked forward to the special carol services which somehow brought home to us the beautiful story of the birth of the Christ child.

One such carol service I attended was held at the Sancta Maria Redemptorist Church in Halloluwa on the 19th December 2003. The well known Peradeniya Singers presented a programme of Christmas music directed by Bridget Halpe, The Wondrous Story.

It was an unusual programme. There were the traditional carols of Christmas starting with once In Royal Davidís City, and others such as O Holy Night, The First Nowell. Silent Night, O Com All Ye Faithful, and Joy To The World to mention a few. They helped to create the atmosphere of joy and praise that the birth of the Christ child brought to us. These carols evoked memories of Christmas celebrations in the past.

What impressed me more was that Bridget conveyed the universality of Christmas - This was done by the beautiful and harmonious rendering of carols from other countries. The Portuguese carol Lou Vais Nos Per Deos arranged by Earle de Fonseka was a reminder of the earlier churches celebrating Christmas. It was wonderful to listen to a carol from the Russian Church, Cherubim Song. It was heartening to note that Christianity had survived and had inspired a country that was once Communist.

Carols were also sung in many different languages, besides the ones that were sung in English mentioned earlier, and also in Russian and Portuguese. There was a carol in Sinhalese, Mudhu Seethe Nalarelle by Lancelot Perera, a Tamil carol, Thannai Varuthi and two in German. The distinct musical traditions of each ethnic group were conveyed through these well sung carols.

The highlight of the programme was the rendering of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handelís Messiah. It brought home to those present the true message of Christmas that Christ has risen and will live forever and forever in the hearts of those who believe in Him.

The carol service was indeed a mea meaningful prelude to the Christmas season It must be mentioned that the two secular songs Jingle Bells and finally We Wish You A Merry Christmas reminded us that Christmas is also a season of merriment and festivity.

Bridget and her talented band of singers, including those who provided the accompaniment for these carols should be congratulated. How many hours and what energy they have spent to convey the beautiful message of Christmas. May God bless them all.