Shakespeare once said, "If music be the food of love, play on" and play on it did, as the highly anticipated choral celebration, the 4th South Asia Pacific Choir Games was held in Colombo.

The 4th South Asia Pacific Choir Games got off to a swinging start at Temple Trees on October 21 with local and international choirs getting on stage to give guests a glimpse of what the week would unfold. Director Programmes of the Colombo Cultural Hub Trust (CCHT) Soundarie David Rodrigo spoke about the Trust's desire to nurture and harbour cultures in our country as local audiences would witness many nations coming together for the "mutual love for music."

The "Ravibandhu - Samanthi Dance Ensemble" greeted guests with a traditional "Kohomba Hella" dance (an excerpt from the historic Kandyan dance) while festival compere Arun Dias Bandaranaike then welcomed the 17 participating countries - China, Croatia, Britain, India, Indonesia, Iran, Latvia, Malaysia, Norway, Netherlands, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

"Singing together brings nations together" Vice President of INTERKULTUR Stefan Bohlander stated, commenting that the festival "sends a message of respect, understanding and friendship."

The all female ensemble 'Soul Sounds' did a fresh take on a medley of local folk songs giving international participants their first taste of Sri Lankan choral music.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who graced the opening ceremony on October 21 shared that during his time in Royal College he too sang in the school choir, allowing him to truly appreciate the work and dedication of the musicians taking part. "Singing has been part of our character," the PM said adding that Sri Lanka was honoured to host an event of this magnitude. "INTERKULTUR I thank you for being here," he said. "Music accompanies us from birth to death," the premier said as he declared open the 4THsup> Asia Pacific Choir Games.

The gala opening featured a range of diverse performances from some of the 17 international choral participants most staying true to their roots and culture.

October 22 the official first day of the Choir Games commenced with one of the only ticketed concerts of the festival, "Asian Celebration".

First up was the "Mizo Cardinal Choir" conducted by Lalsângliana Râlte, the choristers in the traditional attire of the men and women of Mizoram, India who presented a powerful balance of male and female vocals. Dressed in colourful ethnic outfits, the choir from the hill states of North Eastern India sang a mix of spirituals and traditional songs - a great start to the event.

The "KMITL Chorus" conducted by Kajornsak Kittimathaveenan was introduced by Arun Dias Bandaranaike as "one of the more popular Thailand based choirs."Elegant in black, they gave their own rendition of "Ave Maria" - a polished performance in the gracious setting of the Temple Trees auditorium.

Prashalini Peiris conducted the all female choir from Sri Lanka "Asteria" who made their appearance in colourful sarongs and variations of white blouses. After a slightly rocky start, the choir bounced back with their rendition of a Simon and Garfunkel hit, "Bridge over Troubled Water" - the female soloist giving a moving performance.

The last performance of the evening, the Indonesia based "Paduan Suara Mahasiswa Universitas Atma Jaya Yogyakarta" choir conducted by Abraham Patrick Badiaraja Simanjuntak had the audience enrapt. Their lively performance and costumes paid homage to their rich culture. Despite minor drawbacks such as a sudden power failure, they won the admiration of the audience for their showmanship. Their fluid synchronized dance moves and beautiful blend of music and vocals ended the evening on a high.

The week long choir games (October 22 to 27) was hosted by the Colombo Cultural Hub Trust (CCHT), under the patronage of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Dilmah Tea and INTERKULTUR of Germany - the world's leading body for international choral competitions and festivals.

The competitions were hosted from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily at the Lionel Wendt Theatre and Nelum Pokuna and were open free to the public. The choirs also took part in Friendship concerts at the Nelum Pokuna open air stage at 5 p.m. in the evening and Sacred Concerts at St. Mary's Church (October 23 and 26).

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