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IN CONVERSATION WITH GEHAN COORAY

5 February 2022 06:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Gehan Cooray is a Hollywood based Actor, Classical Baritone Singer, and Independent Filmmaker. At the dawn of 2021, Gehan’s first Hollywood feature film THE BILLIONAIRE was cinematically released in Sri Lanka. The film won the Best Comedy Feature Award at the


2020 Burbank International Film Festival. We caught up with Gehan to discuss his upcoming concert in Colombo and to also speak about his first vocal album, Classical and Cool, which he had recorded in Los Angeles with Grammy Award winning musicians, Russell Ferrante and fellow Sri Lankan American, Hussain Jiffry. The album is now available on all major music


platforms including Spotify, iTunes (Apple Music) and Amazon. 

Gehan, welcome back. Please share with us in summary details pertaining to your upcoming concert?

Thank you, it’s good to be back in the island. 

My concert on the 10th of February will be a solo concert which will take place at 7.30pm at the Lionel Wendt Theatre, Colombo. The first half of the concert will feature primarily Operatic Arias and Classical pieces, while the second half of the programme will encompass Broadway Musical Numbers, songs from Hollywood Movies, and vintage standards. The Operatic and Classical component of the concert will feature the work of composers Rossini, Camille Saint-Saëns, Rachmaninoff, and Schubert. Among the vintage Broadway composers whose songs I will be performing are Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Rodgers & Hammerstein and Cole Porter. I will also be performing songs from Classic Hollywood films like James Bond "Goldfinger", Disney's Cinderella, and Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining." Furthermore, my album CLASSICAL AND COOL which was recorded back in Los Angeles with Grammy Award winning American Artists will also be launched at the concert, and more old-fashioned music lovers like myself who still like to listen to CDs can purchase hard copies of my album at the Lionel Wendt that evening.

What inspired you to do a performance in Sri Lanka whilst you're here on holiday?

It was actually a friend of my mother who suggested I do a concert here, since I hadn't performed in Colombo since the dawn of the pandemic. In fact, there have been no Solo Concerts by any vocal artistes at the Lionel Wendt since the pandemic began, and my mother’s friend who is also on the Board at the Wendt thought that this concert would be a great way to bring the beauty and joy of song back to Colombo as everyone navigates through the new normal. I'm not sure when I'll return to Sri Lanka once I head back to Los Angeles in                   mid-February, and so I couldn't be more excited to engage with all the glorious music aficionados in my hometown via this Concert before I leave. As exhilarating as the cinematic release of my film THE BILLIONAIRE was last year, there is nothing quite like the thrill of a live performance! 

 

Share with us details of all the Artists you will be collaborating with for the concert?

Menaka de Fonseka Sahabandu will be collaborating on Piano. She will also play two solo pieces. We have an almost identical taste in music, and so it is very easy to work with her. It feels very natural, plus it's always special to collaborate with your old teacher. 

 

Share with us details of your new album currently available on all streaming platforms?

Yes, my new album is available on Spotify, iTunes (Apple Music), Amazon, and all the leading streaming platforms, so if you are more "cool" than "classical", and no longer listen to CDs, you can still listen to my album digitally. I was given the same microphone normally reserved for Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban to record my album in Los Angeles, which was such an unexpected treat, and an honour. They believed that the Classical timbre of my voice would be best captured on that particular mic. I also had some of the leading musicians in Los Angeles collaborate with me, such as Grammy Award winners Russell Ferrante (of 'Yellowjackets' fame) and Hussain Jiffry (who also produced the album), clarinettist and saxophonist Tom Ranier who has also collaborated on the albums of superstars such as Barbra Streisand, Placido Domingo, Christina Aguilera, Shirley Bassey, Barry Manilow et. al. Then there was Gayle Levant who is the number one Harpist in L.A. She is always the first choice of all the top Hollywood Movie Studios when their film scores need a harp! And an entire treasure trove of other artists including Robert Kyle, Steve Weingart (who also did the majority of my musical arrangements), Tamir Hendelman, Chaun Horton, Luanne Homzy, Paul Cartwright and Michael Stever, who played a vast array of different instruments on the album, making the end result sound richer and more sumptuous than my wildest imaginings! The album encompasses, Opera, Classical Music, Vintage Broadway Hits, Sacred Hymns, and even Jazz Standards. Album Producer Hussain Jiffry came up with the idea of having brand new arrangements for nearly all the pieces, and hence, even the most familiar one’s sound completely fresh. I have yet to meet someone who didn't enjoy the album, and of course the credit for that is to be shared with my extraordinary team of musicians. 

 

Share with us details of new upcoming projects you have lined up for 2022?

I was supposed to record a second album in Norway this February, with a great Norwegian pianist, but unfortunately Omicron has compelled us to postpone this. I'll be playing the lead role in an opera at the Miami Classical Music Festival again this summer, and am working on several new scripts in the meantime, which I hope to bring to life both onscreen and onstage, although the development process will take some time (especially since the U.S is still reeling from Omicron). 

 

Is the new album being considered for any international awards?

The album was eligible for the Grammy Awards this time, and I received some truly touching praise from a number of the Grammy Voters. This of course is the ultimate dream come true for any musician. 

 

Any final thoughts before wrapping up?

Both my album and the concert on February 10th encapsulate a strong sentiment of NOSTALGIA. I feel like when the present and the future are uncertain, it is tremendously helpful to draw strength and joy from all the beautiful and noble things of the past, which need to be taken to heart at times like this, reminding us that life is still a precious thing. The good old days can and will be ours once again, if we don't forget about all the glorious things, in this case, the music, that we used to enjoy together with our parents and grandparents growing up. Everything in life is cyclical, and it is my fervent hope that things will come round full circle very soon. Music and Art used to be considered sacred, and it has been my personal experience that music can provide not only comfort and upliftment, but also healing and transformation! Life CAN and SHOULD be a song, and even from the ashes of a phoenix, a beautiful Nightingale can always soar into the golden sky when the clouds clear away.

Tickets for Gehan’s solo concert on the 10th of February 2022, can be purchased at the Lionel Wendt Theatre, Colombo. Seating arrangements will be made in accordance with COVID-19 protocols as directed by the PHI. 

 

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