The Annual Thomian Carol Service organised by the S.Thomas’ College Old Boys’ Association NSW/ACT was held for the seventh successive year on the 21st of November 2015 at All Saints Anglican Church in Parramatta. The choir was trained and conducted by Vasantha Weerakoon in his sixth year at the helm. Vasantha’s personal investment of time skill organisational nous and spiritual fervour deserve special mention. The strength sustenance and support he receives from his wife Patricia is the stuff of legend. This true partnership has blessed many here and overseas.
Preparations are too numerous to list for The Carol service in November that start in March in the Weerakoon household. Together with the Carols organizing committee of the OBA preparations are put in place keeping in mind the voluntary time extended by the choristers and associated members like David Osbourne the Organist.
This year there were five practice sessions with the full choir. In addition, separate practice sessions were held with Sopranos, Altos, Tenors and Basses to ensure that when the choir came together as a unit to ensure that the limited rehearsal time would be as productive as possible.
The church atmosphere was warm and inspiring with the Thomian College flags in Blue Black and Blue draping the stage, pulpit and lectern. It was reminiscent of the Chapel of the Transfiguration at STC, Mt Lavinia.
The ‘Welcome’ was delivered by the eloquent Kumar Rasiah. This included an outline of proceedings for the evening. He also introduced the Preacher for the night an old Thomian, Pastor Michael de Kretser. Michael who retired from a 19 year career in Finance to answer the Lord’s call is currently the Pastor at the Christian Reformed Church in Casey Victoria. He and his wife Jenny had flown up from Victoria to attend the Carol Service in Sydney at the invitation of the STC OBA.
The choir was made up of the traditional meld of Sopranos Altos Tenors and Basses. The highest voices sang Descants for specially chosen Carols ‘Once, In Royal David’s City’ ‘Hark! The Herald-Angels Sing’ and ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’. The Carols chosen were listenable and accessible. The singing was good and most pleasant. Rich harmony secure unison passages, excellent dynamic variation, ranging from thunderous ‘forte’ to exquisite ‘pianissimo’. This year two ‘full-length’ ‘ethnic’ Carols were introduced. ‘Yesu Bilindha’ a Sinhala carol and “Yesu Piranthar” a Tamil carol. A lively band provided colourful accompaniment for these rhythmic songs.
As always the congregation engaged with the choir and the ‘Heavenly Host’ in a generous selection of much loved and well-known Christmas Carols.
Pastor Michael de Kretser delivered the message. Being an Old Thomian he spoke knowingly and with freedom to a captive audience. He evoked many memories of the Sri Lanka of the ‘70s, when he was a student at S. Thomas’ Prep, Kollupitiya. His word pictures were crafted with thought feeling and clarity. The ‘images’ created danced tantalisingly ‘…across the inward eye…’… his candour and style enhanced his message, which centred on three L’s, Life Light and Love. Jesus, who gave life to everything in our world, God, who gave light and freed mankind from sin, and God’s love, demonstrated in the sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of the world. He quoted St. John’s gospel 3:16 ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believe in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life’ to illustrate his explanation of good news to mankind.
This year the OBA invited representatives in Sydney from schools falling within the Church Mission Society (CMS) in Sri Lanka to participate in the Carol Service. There were lessons read in Sinhala and Tamil a celebration of the cultural diversity and harmony among the main communities. Reaching out beyond STC’s ‘boundary’ gave the festival of Nine Lessons and Carols an important element of inclusiveness. This was further enhanced by the thoughtful display of slides on the big screen. Each reader had the emblem of their respective school displayed when they delivered their allotted lesson.
Producing a DVD was a first for the OBA this year. This will ensure that many people around the world could enjoy the music passion of this unique event and the reliving of the traditions in Sydney. It would also provide family and friends with what the OBA feels is an interactive pictorial record for posterity.
This event made it possible for the Sri Lankan and the wider community in Sydney together with their friends and family to meet in unity to enjoy an evening of worship and praise in ushering the Advent period of 2015. Though this year will be remembered with much sadness the world over… due to the extremism that enslaves many, history will record that n one congenial spot (like ‘Camelot’) three hundred plus souls gathered to celebrate the birth of The Saviour of the World. STC OBA NSW is keeping alive an age old and much respected tradition of its Alma Mater S. Thomas’ College Mt. Lavinia and its famed moto ‘Esto Perpetua’, be Thou forever.
The Carol Service was followed by a social, a time of fellowship. A logistical and catering challenge as one never knows how many will turn up! Nevertheless the OBA was able to provide all the guests refreshments, which was supplemented by numerous donations of sweets by well wishes. The immediate feedback from the community has been heartening, as many who attended have shared their impressions via email to the committee. While the OBA does face challenges to fund this rather costly social event, STC OBA is determined to continue the tradition of the annual Thomian Carol Service.
Welcome – Kumar Rasiah, STC OBA NSW
Bidding Prayer – Rev Jeffrey Abayasekara – STC Mt L
Lesson 1 – Samanthi Weeratunga – Bishop’s College Colombo
Lesson 2 – Packi Rajakone – St John’s College Jaffna
Lesson 3 – Rabi David – Trinity College Kandy
Lesson 4 – Sharminie Niles – Ladies College Colombo
Lesson 5 – Daya Thayananthan – Royal College (President RC OBA NSW)
Lesson 6 – Prasanthi Wijesinghe – St Paul’s Milagiriya Colombo
Lesson 7 – Savithri Thiru – Chundikuli Girls College Jaffna
Lesson 8 – Graham Masefield – STC Mt L (President STC OBA NSW)
Lesson 9 – Rev Owen Goddard – Rector, All Saints Anglican Church
Message – Pastor Michael de Kretzer, Christian Reformed Church of Casey
S. Thomas’ College Old Boys Association NSW/ACT