“Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel,”
It was in the early 1950s that I met Lylie, and it didn’t take us long to build a friendship that grew into a warm and deep rooted affection for each other. Lylie, with his parents, brother and sister lived in a modest home at Kotahena and I often visited him on my bicycle for a friendly chat. I lived at Dematagoda and although it was quite a distance to ride, it was worth the effort.
During our youth we took an interest in worship at church and participated in its activities. The Anglican Church’s youth organisation was known as the “The Church of Ceylon Youth Movement” (CCYM).
Lylie was a parishioner of “The Old Cathedral”, Kotahena (also known as ‘The Gal Palliya’ or Stone Church) and was the choirmaster and a member of CCYM. I was involved in this movement at St Paul’s Church, Kynsley Rd.
Once a year the CCYM held a conference at different venues in the country where members from various churches met for a time of devotion, study and comradeship.
On one such Conference, held in Kandy I volunteered to give Lylie a ride on my LE Velocette Motorcycle. We left in the morning, it was a pleasant journey all the way, enjoying the fresh breeze and scenery. At Kadugannawa, as we approached the climb to the hill country, the motorcycle stalled and stopped. Fortunately, there was a spout gushing with fresh water, which helped us to refill and cool the radiator and get the bike going once again. However, to reduce the weight, Lylie had to walk a short distance up the incline and thereafter we continued our journey, reaching our destination in late afternoon, welcomed with a loud hooray! After a well spent 3 days of fun and fellowship we rode back home with no problems at all.
I well remember the time when Lylie met Ima De La Motte who worshipped at the Baptist Church, and although there were denominational differences, their relationship blossomed, ending in marriage. I was privileged to attend their wedding and happy to keep my camera clicking to get the best shots.
They were blessed with two sons Willie and Christopher. Sadly, Ima passed away on the 25th July, 2017.
Lylie needs no introduction. He is well known as a renowned baritone singer (trained by Mrs. R.A. Spencer Shepherd) and much has been said and written about him. In 1947 he formed “The Crochets” with Bede de Zilva, Joy Ferdinando and Mrs. Spencer Shepherd as pianist.
In 1960 he was the choirmaster for the YMCA, and then left this in 1962 to start his own singing group known as the “Lylie Godridge Singers” (LG Singers).
This year the LG Singers celebrates their 60th Anniversary and continues to perform under the leadership of his son Willie.
Negro Spirituals have been the LGS forte such as ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’, ‘Nobody Knows’ and ‘Let the Heaven Light’.
In early 1978, Lylie was invited to visit Melbourne by some of his close friends who collectively paid his airfare and accommodation, which he gladly accepted.
The highlights of his stay was a concert, “An Evening of Song” organised by The Australia/ Sri Lanka Welfare Guild and held at the City Hall, Springvale on Sunday, 19th February 1978 to raise funds for his music academy in Sri Lanka.
The concert featured Lylie Godridge supported by Estelle & Douglas De Niese, Ernie Walker, Brioni De Kretzer, Bede De Zilwa, Christine & Victor Gamalathge, Jeyam Gulasekeram and the LG Singers, Australia namely, Clarence Pears, Herbert Roberts, Lucian Fernando, Godfrey Daniels, Franklin Harvie, Milroy de Vos, Rodney Forster, Lister Fernando, Derek Hepponstall, & Johann Reid. It was an evening that was well attended and enjoyed by all.
Sadly, Lylie passed away on 22nd October 1998, and it’s almost 24 years that we miss his company. Nevertheless, he has left a lifetime of enjoyment if we choose to listen to his music. His legacy lives on.
I would like you to reflect on this tribute made on the 26th February 1973 by the late Bishop of Colombo, The Rt. Rev Cyril L. Abeynaike,
“In one of Fianna MacDonald’s beautiful folk tales of the Hebrides she tells of a sea-god who desired to capture a boy for his sea kingdom. When the parents of the boy realised they were followed they quickly turned and sped for the shore. As the keel grated on the sand the sea-god knew he had lost. He then took some sea water and flung it at the child’s heart saying, “the sea will always be in your heart”. And so it was, the child grew up to be a sea rover; the sea was in his heart.
From his boyhood music has been in Lylie’s heart. Had he so chosen he might have used his voice to respond to the thunderous rattle of the dollar. He chose otherwise. The writer of the Book of Ecclesiasticus says “God hath set eternity in our hearts”. Music is God’s gift to Lylie and he uses it to bring others to God.
There are various ministries in the Church and Lylie’s is the Ministry of Song. In that he exercises all his talents, time and energy. No call went unheeded. His leisure is consecrated to this ministry in ‘music’ for ‘eternity’ is in his heart. His song is a sacrament. Lylie indeed is a ‘chosen vessel’. A vessel is not for itself. If it is beautiful, it is placed on a stand to delight the beholder. Otherwise it holds things, or food is prepared in it, or water is contained.
Always the vessel is for others never for itself. And a ‘chosen’ vessel is made by God. “You have not chosen me but I have chosen you”.
How often Lylie has sung:
“Have Thine own way Lord
Have Thine own way
Thou are the Potter
I am the clay
Make me and mould me
Just as Thou wilt
While I am waiting
Ready and still”
The ministry of song – what a lovely thing it is. Music does not bully, or sneer, or slander, it is not boastful, nor does not think highly of itself. Music and song enrich, gladden, elevates.
There is a passage in the Scottish Catechism that says that ‘man’s chief end is to love God and enjoy Him forever’. Lylie indeed loved God and enjoyed Him. And he has helped us to love God and to enjoy him too. Praise God, and thank you Lylie.”
“Music has Charms to sooth a savage beast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” William Congreve, 1697
‘If music be the food of love, play on.’ ………….William Shakespeare
Listen to Lylie: