Visharad Fr. Edmund Tillekeratne Continuing the legacy of creative clergies

Published : 9:25 am  October 21, 2015 | No comments so far |  |  (617) reads | 

mThe annals of the Catholic Church have been dotted, for centuries, with the names of some illustrious members of its clergy, whose outstanding creativity in the fine arts is hailed even  today.  Among them, the works of Bishop Edmund Peiris, Frs. Jacome Gonsalves, Marcelline Jayakody, Moses Perera,  come to mind, for their invaluable  contributions to indigenous music and drama. Visharad Fr. Edmund Tillekeratne is also among this long list of creative personalities. 




 Visharad Fr. Edmund Tillekeratne,  a versatile and accomplished lyricist and composer presents ‘Prema Sanduvani’, a collection of his colourful, moving compositions on October 25 at Bishop’s College Auditorium, Colombo at 6.30pm. Among the singers will be Amarasiri Peiris, Chandana Liyanarachchi, Kasun Kalhara, Surendra Perera, Nelu Adikari, Amal Perera, Meena Prasadani, Ravindra Alagiyawanne, Prasantha Fernando, while the orchestra will be conducted by Fr. Edmund Tillekeratne, himself. 

Fr. Edmund, as he is popularly known, was born at Pitipana, Negombo in the very heart of the ‘Catholic’ coastal fringe, and was introduced to indigenous music by his grandfather, a violinist / visharad musician of no mean repute.  No wonder that Fr. Edmund began playing the violin at the tender age of 13 years, after being taught by Mr. Leslie Raphael at St. Aloysius’ Minor Seminary, Borella. He successfully offered Oriental Music as a subject at both the Ordinary and Advanced Level exams.

It was once he entered the National Seminary at Ampitiya that he came under the guidance and influence of the reputed guru of the Training College at Giragama, Mr. M. G. Sugathadasa.   During the years he spent at the Seminary,   Fr. Edmund got many opportunities to extend his repertoire as a creative artiste.

Oriental music programmes at the National Seminary were conducted under the auspices of the Gonsalves Sinhala Academy.  The Academy has an orchestra and conducts singing and drama competitions, within and outside the Seminary.  Fr. Edmund at times played the violin, wrote the music and directed the orchestra.  For Drama, Fr. Edmund would sometimes write scripts and often write and direct the music.  For singing competitions, he sometimes wrote the lyrics and wrote and directed the music.  Here at the Ampitiya Seminary, while studying to become a priest, Fr. Edmund blossomed as a versatile musician and was much sought after. Back in Colombo in 1985 as a priest, he continued his training,  this time under the famous violin teacher, Mr. B. Victor Perera. This enabled him, in 1988/89, to pass successfully, in the First Division, ‘The Upadhi of Visharad of Music’ of the ‘Bhathkande Sangit Vidyapith’, Lucknow  -  the equivalent of a Bachelor’s Degree in Oriental Music.  He was thus admitted to the ‘Upadhi of Visharad of Vadya Music’.      
 In 2002, Fr. Edmund was appointed the Catholic Chaplain of the four Universities in and around Colombo –  Colombo, Kelaniya,  Moratuwa and Sri Jayawardenepura  -  and remained as chaplain till 2010.   Here too he got many opportunities to refine and develop his skills and talents.  In every one of those nine years, he gathered the Catholic students of these four Universities and produced and directed  a programme of Christmas carols, the lyrics and music of most of which were composed by him.   These programmes were held initially at the Tower Hall, Colombo and later at Catholic churches and college, in Colombo.

Despite his heavy schedule of priestly duties, especially among University students, Fr. Edmund produced and released six CDs,  the lyrics and music of which were almost entirely composed by him.   They are:

01.‘Yovun  Ridma’;
02.‘Nattal  Tharumal’;
03.‘Pahan  Ridma’;
04.‘Paduwawey  Pela  Hara’;
05.‘Premaye  Mahimaya’.          
06.‘Santa Jude Gee Saraniya’

        He has also produced and directed a Visual of a Christmas Carol, which was in one of his CDs –  ‘Nattal  Tharumal.’  The Visual was called  ‘Meedum  Patala  Ira’ and sung by Chandana Liyanaarachchi.

When His Holiness Pope John Paul II visited Sri Lanka,  on the occasion of the beatification of Blessed Joseph Vaz, and celebrated Mass at Galle Face, the musical arrangement of the hymns sung at the Mass was done by Fr. Edmund.   The hymns were sung by the choir of the National Seminary,  while the orchestration was handled by the instrumentalists of the Sarasavi Kalaayathanaya of Mr. M. G. Sugathadasa.

Fr. Edmund is such a versatile and accomplished lyricist and composer in Sri Lanka and so willing to help others in need, that he had obliged several persons who were in need of lyrics or music for some particular occasion.  He still does.  

It is with much deserved pride that he now presents ‘Prema Sanduwani’ which, even more than his previous presentations,  will most certainly be appreciated and acclaimed as an outstanding work.