Claude Fernando, popularly known as ‘King’ Claude was blessed with magical fingers that not only flew across a keyboard with a certain rich smoothness, but also composed music that flowed beautifully. He was hailed as a phenomenal pianist and a one-of-a-kind composer of our time.
Born in 1947, Claude was born talented according to his sister. At four years he barely reached the piano but could play music by ear while his sister struggled to follow a piece of music. He schooled at St. Thomas’ College and is fondly recalled by many as being humble and down to earth, remaining lifelong friends with his school mates.
Many of his era would remember the ‘King Claude’ TV shows of the 80’s which was the highlight of his career. He invited new artists to his show and gave them the opportunity to perform and entertain and treated audiences to fresh talent. He also founded the ‘Children’s Recreation School’ which was a platform for young and talented children to sing and perform for the Kind Claude TV shows that were aired on ITN. Another of his TV programmes ‘Learn Music with King Claude’ was also aired on TNL.
His greatness never made him unreachable. He was always close and helpful to artists. He helped many artists arrange their music simply because he was the best at it. He is hailed for being able to write music at unimaginable speeds and for notating a song while someone hums it.
King Claude was the main keyboardist for the band ‘Spitfires’. He later founded ‘Claude and The Sensations’. He composed the famous song ‘City of Colombo’ which was originally sung by Noeline Honter and accompanied by Claude and The Sensations. The song describes the city of Colombo in all it’s beauty and abundance. The EP album ‘City of Colombo’ on Sooriya label contains three more songs; ‘I’ll think of you’ sung by Sam Nathan, ‘Soul Believer’ sung by Desmond De Silva and ‘The Girl Was Me’ sung by Noeline Honter. All music composition, direction and the lyrics were done by Claude Fernando.
Listen to clips from the album – City of Colombo by Claude & the Sensation
In the 70’s Claude arranged music for live Sooriya shows and conducted the first Sooriya pop orchestra at The Sooriya Show held 30th September 1972.
His perception of sound coupled with his knowledge of music gave him the unique ability to put music into play. His rhythms made him popular among the old and young alike.
At heart Claude was always a teacher. Ranga Dassanayaka, Music Producer of Hit Factory and a student of Claude recalls him to be a great teacher with a simple and practical method. He had the ability to see the talent in a budding musician and help them grow their music. Great oriental musicians such as M.K. Roksamy learned theory of Western Music from Claude Fernando.
Claude conducted voice training lessons and used 37 years of teaching experience to devise new and interesting methods as well as traditional methods to bring out the best in his students. He is known to teach a diverse range of styles including Broadway, Semi-classics, movie songs, Jazz and popular favourites and provided the opportunity for the students to sing on stage, radio and CD. In 2008, Claude revamped the ‘Children’s Recreation School’ with a vision to let children find pleasure in music by letting them explore singing and dancing. New subjects that were introduced included Hip-Hop, Latin, Fusion, Jazz, free style and Top Hat dancing, as well as voice training and singing.
King Claude passed away on December 2009 at the age of 62. A great loss for the industry and young talent of the country. He will live on within the hearts of the musicians and students he touched and in through his vision of giving opportunity to young talent.