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Archive for the ‘music’ tag

Bearing The Light: Honoring our Spiritual Foremothers

An image of the Rockefeller Carillon, to be played at the Bearing the Light concert at University of Chicago, an event put on by the Women’s Task Force of the CPWR. Photo from University of Chicago website.

On November 3rd at 7:30pm, the University of Chicago’s majestic Rockefeller Chapel will be filled with the dynamic sounds of West African drumming and the ethereal 12th century chant of Hildegard of Bingen. As the combined chants of many different traditions reach a crescendo, the chapel will be bathed in light and the ringing of the Rockefeller Carillon, the second-largest musical instrument in the world.

An hour of music and readings honoring women across time and traditions, “Bearing the Light: Honoring Our Spiritual Foremothers” will feature the all-women’s percussion ensemble Diamana Diya, directed by Helen Bond and Amy Lusk, and acclaimed sopranos Laura Lynch, Jillian Krickl, and Alessandra Visconti, as well as classical Indian dance and the soulful sounds of chant from Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Native American, and other spiritual traditions.

“Bearing the Light: Honoring Our Spiritual Foremothers” marks the inauguration of the Women’s Task Force at the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religion. The Women’s Task Force seeks to assure that women’s voices are heard at the vital nexus of women’s issues, religion, and spiritual leadership. “This is a night to celebrate the courage and wisdom and love of the women who have gone before us, and to inspire one another to speak from the deepest truths of our lives today,” explained the Rev. Dr. Anne Benevenuti, co-chair of the Women’s Task Force.

This event is free and open to the public, and takes place at Rockefeller Chapel, at 5850 South Woodlawn Avenue on the campus of the University of Chicago. A dessert reception follows with spirited conversations.

Come join us for an uplifting evening of world music and interfaith spirituality in Chicago, marking inauguration of the Women’s Task Force at the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religion!  RSVP at

Premiere of Vivekananda Oratorio 150

Shown is composer Atmaqvidyananda and CPWR Chair Emeritus William Lesher at the Vedante Center after the performance. Photo submitted by A. Jean Lesher.

by A. Jean Lesher

Swami Atmaqvidyananda, composer and musical director, led a 20 voice choir in a performance of his “Vivekananda Oratorio 150″ created in honor of the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, one of the founders of the Parliament of Religions in 1893.  The premier was held at the Vedante Society of Southern California headquarters in Hollywood Monday, Sept. 3, 2012.  The Oratorio lyrics repeat words from Vivekananda’s speeches and writings; it was a 90 minute performance to an interfaith audience in the Vedante Society’s main worship area.

Composer Atmaqvidyananda (born as William Scott) has been active in the Society since 1954.  Other major works include “Mountain Journey,” an interfaith opera; “Claudia and Alexander,” a mystical operetta; the oratorio “Ramakrishna and His Teaching” and “Ram Nam Symphony.”  He is a monk of the Ramakrishna Order of India posted to the Hollywood center where he is organist-choir director, treasurer and gardener.  He is a campus minister at the University of Southern California where he also lectures.

Beastie Boys Co-Founder, Buddhism, and Islam

Photo of MCA of the Beastie Boys, who became a Buddhist, as well as a champion of mutual understanding between the US and Muslims. Photo from the Guardian

by Omid Safi
from Religion News Service (RNS)

If you are of a certain age (not gonna say it) and your impression of the Beastie Boys ends with “(You Gotta) Fight for the Right (to Party)”, “Sabotage”, or even “Intergalactic”, you might not have been keeping with the evolution of the Beastie Boys from hip-hop punks in the early 80’s to elder statesmen of the Hip-Hop world, converts to Buddhism, and defenders of the Tibetan cause.    Adam Yauch, also known as MCA, was one of the co-founders of Beastie Boys.

Born to a Catholic dad and a Jewish mother, MCA eventually found his spiritual home after meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the 1990’s.  This is how he expressed his own spiritual yearnings:

The feeling I get from the rinpoches and His Holiness [the Dalai Lama] and Tibetan people in general. The people that I’ve met are really centered in the heart; they’re coming from a real clear, compassionate place. And most of the teachings that I’ve read about almost seem set up to distract the other side of your brain in order to give your heart center a chance to open up. In terms of what I understand, Buddhism is like a manual to achieve enlightenment—there are these five things and these six things within the first thing, and all these little subdivisions. And despite all of that right-brain information, it’s very heart-centered. At least that’s the feeling I get from the Tibetans. Also the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism have been passed down for a long time now. They have that system pretty well figured out.

MCA’s passing away was mourned by none other than His Holiness the Dalai Lama:
Adam had helped us raise awareness on the plight of the Tibetan people by organizing various freedom Tibet concerts and he will be remembered by his holiness and the Tibetan people.

Click here to read the full article

Arts and Culture Bring Peace and Reconciliation To Multi-Religious and Multi-Ethnic Communities in Sri Lanka

Traditional Sri Lankan harvesting dance. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

by Iromi Dharmawardhane

The arts and culture can be powerful catalysts in bringing about reconciliation within the hearts of individuals as well as between communities, changing who we are and how we relate to each other.  Reconciliation through the arts and other cultural mediums can occur in two ways: firstly, a victim of war may find it easier to express one’s pain – including one’s remorse – through aesthetic mediums, and secondly, artistic and cultural projects and performances which are a fruit of collaboration between individuals belonging to different communities would lead to the regaining of each other’s trust and respect, understanding each other’s different but equally painful war-time experiences, learning about what is common and valuing what is unique in each other’s cultural heritage, and at last recognizing each other’s interdependence.

The arts, whether it is through music, painting, poetry, prose, song, dance, film, photography, theater, or puppetry, can be a vehicle for truth, dialogue, and inter-cultural understanding for communities who speak different languages in nations where communal relations have been battered by the circumstances of war. Sri Lanka has seen several outstanding examples of how the arts have a great part to play in the national reconciliation process. An extraordinary concert was organized and directed by Mrs. Arunthathy Sri Ranganathan on March 6, 2012 in Sri Lanka where an orchestra comprising 100 young musicians from all districts of Sri Lanka performed in unison, playing a variety of Oriental and Western instruments. This talented and large assembly of musicians from diverse backgrounds conveyed a convincing and memorable message of “unity in diversity”.

The Aru Sri Art Theatre troupe founded by Mrs. Arunthathy Sri Ranganathan to promote inter-ethnic harmony rendered a captivating performance of the dance drama Sri Ram at the International Ramayana Festival in Bintaan, Indonesia on April 12 – 13, 2012 and in Singapore on April 14. They also presented scintillating performances of classical compositions on Hindu themes such as Bharathanatyam and the Cosmic Dance of Shiva which were performed by Sri Lankan dancers of different ethnicities and religions. The conciliatory power of the performing arts in drawing different ethnic groups together was never so vividly and vibrantly depicted. Aru Sri Art Theatre offers audiences across Sri Lanka and overseas contemporary interpretations and innovative productions of rich historical and cultural lore, while retaining the purity of the traditional performing arts. Sri Lankan theater and dance companies and associations, in this way, can organize dance symposiums to celebrate and bring together the different dance types in the Sinhalese tradition (such as Upcountry dances, Low Country dances, Sabaragamuwa dances, and folk dances) and the Tamil tradition (such as bharatanatyam, kathakali, and naddu koothu and other folk dances).

Sri Lanka held the Interfaith Music Festival (a first in Asia) in February 2012 which was organized and created by the Mother Sri Lanka Trust and The Art of Living Foundation. Children from across the island came together to perform Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, and Islamic chants and songs on one stage. The highly-praised Jaffna Music Festival was held in March 2011 where hundreds of local folk artists from all over Sri Lanka as well as international folk artists performed in Jaffna in celebration of the unique and diverse traditional musical heritage of Sri Lanka and the world. This event was organized by the Sewalanka Foundation with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Aru Sri Art Theatre, and Concerts Norway.

Click here to read the full article

Trinidad and Tobago Consulate Launches New York-Based Interfaith Council

The Trinidad and Tobago Interfaith Council and Advisory Committee in New York with Consul General at centre and chairman Dr Glenville Ashby in rear.

by Dr. Glenville Ashby
from The Guardian Media

The scene was idyllic as a range of religion-cultural expressions graced York College Performing Arts Center.

Invocations, Quranic recitation, Indian classical dances, Roman Catholic liturgy, Orisa libations, and the tolling bells of Spiritual Baptist dazzled. Coupled with the musical syncretisation of the pan, tassa, tabla, and sitar—the audience was visually and audibly transfixed. It was the first salvo in a series of events to mark T&T’s 50th anniversary as an independent state.

Hundreds, including members of the Caribbean consular corps, packed the popular theatre for the four-hour long interfaith and thanksgiving service that also featured addresses by the Diaspora’s religious figures on the theme, Faith in a Modern World.

Click here to read the full article

Sounds of Faith in Chicago this Sunday

Sounds of Faith is a unique media and educational outreach project focusing on the power of sound—especially in sacred contexts—to unite people. Beginning with an exploration of the peaceful, complex, beautiful, and resonant soundscapes of the three Abrahamic faiths, Sounds of Faith will celebrate the differences and commonalities of sound, focus on how humans are connected to God through sound, and to each other and foster a deeper understanding of the strong ties between the three religions and the communities of faith.

A free concert will be offered this Sunday, Nov 13 at KAM Isaiah Israel in Chicago, IL.

Click here for more information


Experiencing the Sacred within Secular Music

Charles Howard
from Huffington Post

Professor Kirk Byron Jones messed me up. In a good way. His Jazz of Preaching class that I so joyfully attended during my second year of seminary at Andover Newton, was a symphony of holy mischief with each class session simultaneously graying and clarifying where the believer may encounter the Presence of God. Back then there was much talk in seminaries and divinity schools about “border crossing” and that is exactly where this course was taught – at the closely watched and fiercely guarded border between the sacred and the secular. And that’s a dangerous place to be. The few who dare step over the clearly delineated lines are either labeled as groundbreaking ambassadors or lost, wandering ex-pat heretics.

Jones invited students to not only visit the border between what is also called the holy and the profane, he invited us to dance on the border and encourage trade between the two warring nations.

We listened to Duke Ellington and Mahalia Jackson’sCome Sunday, which I can’t hear without tearing up. We raised our hands in praise when we played Coltrane’s divine utterance A Love Supreme in which he says with perfect articulation through his saxophone, “It all has to do with it…” We praised, we wept, we paused, we danced and we shouted with artist after artist.

As a preaching class, the lessons on improvisation while preaching, blues preaching, harmony, call and response and the myriad of applicable metaphors are still notions that I draw from when I am given the honor of entering the pulpit. Jones wrote them up in his wonderful book by the same title The Jazz of Preaching. But there was a deeper lesson that I walked away with: The border between the sacred and the secular is not as firm as it may seem.

Click here to read the full article

Kabbalah and Jazz: The Mystical Foundation of Improvisational Music

From  The Huffington Post

In his great work To Heal the Soul, Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira wrote that all humans each have their own unique musical ladder — a distinct melody that allows one to draw down spiritual sustenance into this world. This melody is exclusive and in essence can not be performed by anyone else. He believes that it is so individualized that to use someone else’s ladder is like putting someone else’s saliva into your mouth to sing. This concept is so ubiquitous, so universal, that Rebbe Nachman of Breslov went as far as to say that each and every blade of grass has its own unique melody as well. Very poetic, but is there any substance to it?

Years ago this assertion would have been harder to make but not so since the advent of String Theory.

Click here to read more.

November 18th, 2010 at 6:00 am

Union Square Hosts First New York Sufi Music Festival

New York Sufi Music FestivalFrom The New York Times

Hands waved overhead. Voices shouted lyrics and whooped with delight. Children were hoisted onto parents’ shoulders. In the tightly packed crowd a few dancers made room to jump. T-shirts were tossed to fans from the stage.

Yet in the songs that Abida Parveen was singing, saints were praised. They were Islamic saints, the poets and philosophers revered by Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam.

It was the first New York Sufi Music Festival, a free three-hour concert on Tuesday in Union Square, and it had music from the four provinces of Pakistan, including traditional faqirs who perform outside temples, Sufi rock and a kind of rapping from Baluchistan.

The concert was presented by a new organization called Pakistani Peace Builders, which was formed after the attempted bombing in Times Square by a Pakistani-American. The group seeks to counteract negative images of Pakistan by presenting a longtime Pakistani Islamic tradition that preaches love, peace and tolerance.

Click here to read the entire article.

July 25th, 2010 at 6:00 am

Chicago Hosts Urban International Festival

LOGOFrom Takin’ It to the Streets Info Section

Takin’ It to the Streets is a Muslim-led festival where artistic expression, spirituality and urban creativity inspire social change.

Takin’ It to the Streets bridges today’s cultural divides by connecting diverse racial, ethnic, and religious communities through a dynamic festival. The festival will enrich cross-cultural community building not only in Chicago, but around the world.

Featured Artists:

  • Mos Def - Grammy WinnerRight-HeaderIMG
  • Brother Ali – Minnesota, USA
  • Tinarwein – Mali
  • Chabab al Andalous – Morocco
  • And many more!

Four Stages:

  • Unity Stage: Reflects this unifying principle and showcases the diverse musical talents of contemporary artists
  • Hip Hop Pavilion: Bringing together the elements of MCing, DJing, Breakin’, and graff art, with skateboarding and workshops
  • World Music Stage: Blending global expression of traditional art forms through international artists
  • Streets Stage: The festival’s signature stage bringing together dynamic performers and inspiring speakers


  • Faith & Justice: Speakers, panel discussion, and dialogue on a variety of issues relating to spirituality & social change
  • International Bazaar: Cultural artifacts, multi-ethnic cuisine, community organizations and more!
  • Health & Wellness Fair: Free health screenings, information on healthy living and refreshments
  • Sports Arena: 3-on-3 Basketball tournament open to all
  • Family Zone: Rides, interactive games, children’s activities, and family-friendly performances
  • Prayer Center: A quite space open all day for meditation, reflection and prayer

Click here to read more about the festival

June 13th, 2010 at 5:41 am