A  legend returns

by Rochelle Gunaratna

Vincent Paul de Pieris with Three Generations will be held on June 23 at 6.45 pm. Tickets priced at Rs. 750 and Rs. 500 for the show, followed by a Peduru Party for Rs. 400, are available at Punchi Theatre in Borella.

The legendary sounds of our very own Vincent De Paul Peiris of "Siripade Samanala Kanda" fame will reverberate at the Namel Malini Punchi Theatre in Borella on June 23 at 6.45pm. The legend will be accompanied by his daughter Ilonka, granddaughter Peshani and great-granddaughter Ayani which is a record by itself.

Malini and Namel Weeramuni

Manel Weeramuni feels this could be a record for the Guinness book as this concert would consist of four generations of singers who belong to the same family. Vincent who is a product of De LaSalle College and St. Benedictís College used to sing along with his three brothers at home, and he first appeared on stage as a teenager singing in all three languages at a concert which was in aid of the war effort on 15th December 1940 under the distinguished patronage of the mayor A. E. Gunasinghe. A certain doctor who was aware of Vincentís singing ability had encouraged him to participate at the time, thus enabling his career to take flight. He has sung in the presence of Lord Luis Mountbatten and entertained soldiers as well. He had also given a solo rendition on the Hawaiian guitar in the 1940s. He started working at Radio Ceylon in 1949 and was the only person to host two programmes, western and oriental. His ability to yodel and sing western classics well earned him the moniker "The Gay Yodeler".

When, as he said, the management had granted him the option of hosting either of the programmes due to certain people being jealous of his success, he had opted out of the western classical programme and stuck with the oriental programme. He had felt that with western songs he will always be imitating someone elseís style but being a Sri Lankan he felt the need to sing his own songs writing the melodies himself. Plans to commerate his golden jubilee as a singer in 1990 did not materialise due to a personal tragedy, bringing his love for singing to a standstill. This concert will give him the opportunity to display his talents once again (his first and last solo concert was in 1940).

He feels indebted to Namel and Malini Weeramuni for their interest in artists in his ilk, who had contributed their talents for the betterment of music and arts in the bygone era.

Singing and and yodelling for my benefit, Iwas awestruck at his capabilities and found it hard to comprehend the fact that this jovial man was 84 years old (he does not look a day over 64 years). He is proud of his troop of seven children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, who brighten his life and he attributes his "joie de vivre" to a free mind and unmalicious spirit. Malini Weeramuni says that this gentleman has a very grand heart and that could be the secret behind his smile.

The Namel Malini Punchi theatre which was established four years ago is the brainchild of Namel and Malini Weeramuni who are no strangers to the world of perfoming arts.

"It had been a dream of Namelís to own a theatre company some day and it took 47 years to make it come true," says his supportive and determined wife Malini, a very kind and gentle lady with nerves of steel. It was her idea to do something for the "old singers" of Sri Lanka who are not given prominence any more, thus paving the way for the first concert featuring Ivor Dennis, followed by a concert featuring Christopher Paul, Narada Disasekera and Vivian Boralessa. Although their greatest cause for concern was the budgeted cost which came to a grand total it did not hamper the shows. This gave her the impetus to continue despite the many hurdles she would face along the way.

"Money cannot buy happiness. It is through such deeds of kindness that we can attain a high level of happiness. The pleasure you get when you see the joy on these artistsí faces is immeasurable," says Malini. It was her acquaintance with Ivor Dennis that enabled her to meet Vincent who is the artist at the third concert. Namel and Malini who have contributed immensely to the field of performing arts, will be given the award for "Lifetime Achievement" by Sarvodaya.


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