Merry Makers use music as an instrument of joy

If you’re looking for a bit of holiday cheer, there’s a new choral group in Wesley Chapel that wants to supply it.

The group, called Merry Makers and led by Edie Ledee-Finnerty, is a choir made up of children ages 6 through 13. And it will soon sing some holiday tunes at Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel, a Publix grocery store and Cobb Theatres Grove 16.

These are the members of the Merry Makers, a Wesley Chapel children’s chorus. They include, in front from left, Nuvini Wijesundara, Sandali Idippili, Sayuri Ranatunga, Yuthmi Gamage, Bianca Walker and Jasmine Mazard. In back, from left, Ravidu Idippili, Thevin Wijesundara, Yeran Gamage, Jeremiah Williams and Breonna Walker. (Photo by B.C. Manion)

These are the members of the Merry Makers, a Wesley Chapel children’s chorus. They include, in front from left, Nuvini Wijesundara, Sandali Idippili, Sayuri Ranatunga, Yuthmi Gamage, Bianca Walker and Jasmine Mazard. In back, from left, Ravidu Idippili, Thevin Wijesundara, Yeran Gamage, Jeremiah Williams and Breonna Walker. (Photo by B.C. Manion)

The children couldn’t be more excited. On Saturday, they were at Ledee-Finnerty’s house, rehearsing the songs they will perform.

As they sang, the choral director periodically stopped them, offering feedback. Sometimes, she called for improvement. Other times she doled out praise.

She clearly had the kids in the palm of her hand.

At one point, they were singing “Silent Night.” Some of the children knew the carol, but were rusty. Others were still learning the song. The first run-through was a little bit rough.

After Ledee-Finnerty’s coaching, however, they excelled on the second attempt.

Ledee-Finnerty’s ability to inspire the kids comes as no surprise to the children’s parents.

“They adore her,” said Jinali Idippili, whose children Sandali Idippili, 8, and Ravidu Idippili, 11, are part of the group.

Parents feel likewise, Idippili said. “She’s wonderful.”

Chulani Wijesundara said her children — Thevin and Nuvivi — have been taking piano lessons from Ledee-Finnerty for years. The teacher offers piano lessons at very reasonable prices, Wijesundara said. “Chorus is free.”

Both Ledee-Finnerty and her husband, Eugene Finnerty, are involved.

“While Ms. Edie is teaching kids, her husband, Mr. Eugene, gives her full support,” Wijesundara added.

Ledee-Finnerty said she appreciates having a group of parents who are involved.

“Each person offers their particular talent — making dresses, buying props, offering rides, making capes and costumes,” she said. “We all work together and it’s very rewarding.”

One of the moms, Katrina Williams, is the group’s choreographer. She enjoys helping the children make the right moves.

Ledee-Finnerty sees music as a powerful force for good, offering a bridge between people of diverse cultures.

“You can bring very different people together and have them learn the same song,” she said. “I particularly love music from around the world because we learn so much about each other through our music.”

It can be fun, too. As the kids sang “The 12 Days of Christmas,” they were going through the motions of milking, leaping, dancing and other actions contained in the Christmas carol.

The choir is made up of Yuthmi Gamage, 6; Sayuri Ranatunga, 7; Nuvivi Wijesundara, 7;

Bianca Walker, 8; Jasmine Mazard, 8; Sandali Idippili; Jeremiah Williams, 9; Breonna Walker, 9; Yeran Gamage, 9; Ravidu Idippili and, Thevin Wijesundara, 13.

Every member of Merry Makers said they enjoy singing.

Sandali Idippili, who attends Wesley Chapel Elementary School, put it this way: “When my voice is going high, I think of the blue sky and the birds are coming down and singing with me.”

The children are memorizing all of the words to the songs they will be performing, and Sandali Idippili believes they’ll be ready. She credited the choir director, noting, “She’s very talented.”

She offered another reason, too: “We practice a lot.”

Merry Makers performance schedule:
• Dec. 13, 6 p.m., Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel, 2600 Bruce B. Downs Blvd.
• Dec. 14, 2 p.m., Publix at Shoppes of New Tampa, 1920 County Road 581
• Dec. 15, 1:30 p.m., Cobb Theatres Grove 16 & CineBistro, 6333 Wesley Grove Blvd.

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