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Trilingual Service at St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk

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A few members of the choir with Rev Dr. Roderick Campbell A few members of the choir with Rev Dr. Roderick Campbell

St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk is where you can always expect to hear one of the finest pipe organs in the country resonate majestically. Where hymns rise and often arias and anthems are performed.  Always the music and style of worship is of the western genre.
But two Sundays ago, the second Sunday in Lent, there was, for the very first time a trilingual service at this venue.

An unusually large congregation gathered enthusiastically, if a little curiously. They knew one of the trustees of the Devar Surya Sena Trust had given Rev Dr. Roderick Campbell a copy of the Sinhala Setting of the Ceylon Liturgy, composed by Devar Surya Sena. And that with Dr. Campbell’s leadership and direction the Service was being prepared and presented by Denham Pereira and Harin Amirthanathan, together with the Vox One choir who would sing in all three languages.

Such a presentation would need skill and diligence and great empathy and devotion. But these are never lacking at The Scots Kirk.

It was the Rev Lakdasa de Mel who had, many years ago, originally convinced Devar Surya Sena to compose the Sinhala setting of the Ceylon Liturgy. And it was first performed in 1932 in Baddegama.

 This particular Sunday it was performed again with some Tamil input as well, for the very first time at, of all places of worship, St Andrew’s Scots Kirk.

 The Kyries, the Nicene Creed, the Sanctus, the Agnus Dei were all sung in Sinhala.  The highlight was perhaps the Hymn for Ceylon in all three languages, which lifted the congregation to be awed and incredibly moved. A tabla, a talampota, the tap tap of gentle cymbals, and the organ appropriately muted, blended magically. Finally, the anthem prior to the last English hymn was a most fitting parting prayer.

Given that St Andrew’s has an international congregation, introducing a trilingual service can be daunting and challenging. However it was evident that music helps to transcend barriers. And the second Sunday in Lent, at the Scots Kirk, was a historic event and blended seamlessly as an experience of inspiring music and worship.  Led by Rev Dr. Campbell, it was truly an experience to treasure.

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