Saxophonist delighted in wonderful world of music


The music world lost a rare talent when virtuoso saxophonist and vocalist Gavin Senn passed away in September 2017.

Gavin, a product of both St Benedict’s and St Peter’s colleges, was truly a mainstream entertainer who delighted audiences with his versatility and range of music.

Journalist Lawrence Machado knew Gavin from schooldays and paid tribute to a wonderful musician.

“Gavin Senn was the thorough professional and was easily one of the most recognisable figures in the Sri Lankan music scene,” Lawrence said.

“I first met Gavin at St Peter’s College when he and his older brother Ricky – now based in Norway – came over from St Benedict’s. They were both a part of Fr Claver’s famous choirs and my earliest memories of them were seeing them play the sax very well for the choir.”

Lawrence, who worked in Dubai, said Gavin cultivated a loyal following in all the local and overseas venues he played, especially at Dubai’s El Rancho nightclub where he and the Mirage played to packed halls during their long stints there.

“When he played the sax, Gavin was in another world and often brought the audience into this special world of his.

“He was particularly fond of the old master Louis Armstrong and could give those favourites like Hello Dolly and What a Wonderful World his special deep-throated versions, which went down a treat.

“As a friend, Gavin had a unique sense of humour and could give as good as he got, often closing off the rapid-fire jokes with his trademark laugh.

“Even if he got the better of you – and believe me he did to me often – you could not stay annoyed with him for long. It was his way of keeping the friendship going and enjoying life.”

Gavin and his brother, Ricky, were featured in the Sunday Observer in 2009.

Broadcaster Mahes Perera wrote about the Senn brothers: “Saxophonist brothers in harmony who have made a name for themselves are rare in our music scene today. A quick look back reveals the names of the Menezes brothers Miki and Tom. Today we have the Senn brothers – Ricky and Gavin – who have carved a niche for themselves as exciting saxophonists both blowing tenor, alto, baritone and soprano and are at ease in any musical context.

“Both are siblings from a musical family. Their father Bernie Senn was a swinging vocalist in the early years and their sister, Ramona, is a recognised pianist who unfortunately did not pursue her musical career.

“Gavin Senn became a saxophonist due to circumstances and now when he looks back he says he is happy it happened that way because he is enjoying himself playing the tenor, alto and soprano saxes.”

Gavin told Mahes: “I started my music when dad made me study the trumpet and the acoustic bass. At St Peter’s College, I was in the choir. But my switch to saxophone came when Ricky joined Colombo Gems and had to go abroad. At that time, he was playing with the band Climax led by Rodney Rabot and that’s how I became a saxophonist. I’m glad about it, I had happy times.”

Gavin played in a string of bands – Climax, Pro Arrangement, Mirage and Aquarius, and then launched a new career as a freelance saxophonist.

Gavin was the loved son of the late Bernie and Celine and brother of Ramona, Jerome and Ricky. His funeral was held on September 14th 2017 in Colombo.

The final tribute to Gavin comes from Lawrence Machado: “I respected Gavin for his lifetime commitment to music and the fact he never forgot his roots or his friends. Rest in peace my friend. Heaven’s choir must be rejoicing with a true talent.”


About Sujith Silva

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