Dmitri returns to the stage with songs of hope | Print edition

By Anoushka Jayasuriya

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This Easter Sunday, soprano Dmitri Gunatilake has some good news to share. On Friday, April 29, she will perform in public after three years, this time presenting a moving evening of gospel songs.

“Music, I think, is a universal language that somehow brings joy to everyone at some point – if someone is sad, happy or frustrated, usually people go to a song,” says Dmitri who became a recognized figure in the Colombo theater scene following roles in productions such as The Sound of Music (2008) where she played Maria von Trapp, The Phantom of the Opera (2014) – Christine Daae, and Evita (2012) where she was Eva Peron. Having performed in multiple genres at his solo gigs including Broadway, classical, jazz and pop, his upcoming performance titled “You Will Be Found” will be a departure from the more dramatic themed gigs that Dmitri has become known for.

Gospel is the genre she will introduce to the public for the first time. Among the 13 songs she will perform are “The Lord’s Prayer”, a favorite of many singers over the years, including Andrea Bocelli, “I will follow him” from the 1992 film Sister Act and “When you Belie” from the 1998 animated film. The Prince of Egypt’.

Dmitri found inspiration in the award-winning Broadway musical ‘Dear Evan Hansen’, which premiered in 2015 – his show is named after one of the songs from the musical’s soundtrack. Focusing on “inspiring and motivational” songs, she had planned it for 2020, but following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, it had to be postponed. “It’s scary,” Dmitri says of his return to the stage since his last solo concert “A Million Dreams” in 2019.

She adds, “I feel like doing a concert like this with such inspiring lyrics and songs, subconsciously people will feel better and feel some hope. I feel like I can bring them some relief for an evening amidst the stress everyone is going through right now.

On her musical debut, Dmitri jokingly admits, “I was forced into it,” recounting how her mother’s solution to her constant singing around the house was to develop her hobby through singing lessons. At age 13, Dmitri began lessons with the late veteran musical director Ruwani Seimon and continued to train with another of Colombo’s prominent musical directors, Menaka of Fonseka Sahabandu under whose guidance she later earned an LTCL from Trinity College London (vocal recital). “Auntie Ruwani completely pulled me out of my shell. She made me the performer I am today – she taught me how to perform a song, how to get it out and how to play a song and Auntie Menaka helped me develop my technique. They were both amazing teachers, who went above and beyond teaching and became friends who were there for me anytime and anything.

Now a full-time singer and vocal coach since transitioning from her legal career in 2019, Dmitri began her own journey as a teacher once she graduated from Bishop’s College. Her first students were two- to three-year-olds in a preschool, but now, 15 years later, she teaches singers of all ages. “I think teaching isn’t just learning a song and singing it; there is a discipline that goes with it, just like a sport, you have to train every day. You have to have that discipline to take care of your voice. I think discipline in singing can help discipline in life,” she says.

Dmitri will be accompanied by Menaka de Fonseka Sahabandu on keyboards, Dhanuksha Seneviratne on keyboards, Tiyanie Sahabandu on violin, Shalintha Rodrigo on bass and Charith Fernando on drums. She will also be joined by The Menaka Singers as well as some of Dmitri’s students and former classmates from Bishop’s College. The show will also feature Rehan Almeida as a guest performer.

In accordance with COVID-19 safety guidelines, social distancing will be maintained at the recital venue with limited numbers in each row and masks to be worn throughout.

“You Will Be Found” will take place at 7:30 p.m. for a duration of one hour and 15 minutes on April 29 at St. Joseph’s College Church, 45 Subhadrarama Lane, Nugegoda. Tickets are priced at Rs. 1500.

Contact 0718935301 or 0776465171
to buy tickets.

Follow Dmitri’s Instagram for more info @dmitri_gunatilake

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