This was likely to be the last concert of the year, and it took place at the Sri Chinmoy Art Gallery at 54 Elgin (across from the War Memorial) on Sunday December 6th at 3pm. The Gallery has since been closed as it was always intended to be a temporary exhibit, but many visitors keep fond memories of that space. Sangit Surabhi, the all-girl group from Ottawa played at this concert as well as the Pavaka Ensemble. Here are a few photos from our last concert on November 8th at the same venue.
Our first ever Eastern Canadian Songs of this Soul tour has just wrapped up and it was a lovely success. Audiences in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Winnipeg got the opportunity to listen to the soothing and uplifting melodies composed by Sri Chinmoy as arranged by 6 different music groups. In each case we played in university theatres to audiences ranging from 200 to 400 people. As is customary for this concert series, the audience was asked to hold their applause until the very end of the concert so that we could create a meditative atmosphere for the duration. Thank you to all the volunteers who helped make this possible as well as the musicians who travelled from far and wide to make this offering to Canada. And of course, thank you to all the audience members who came out to share an evening of peace. Please visit www.songsofthesoul.com for photos of past concerts and info about upcoming events. You are also welcome to leave comments on the same website. These are some of the comments received on our feedback cards on the night of the concert:
“Amazing, peaceful feeling after”
“such a peaceful and meditative performance. Every act was excellent.”
“Absolutely magical, beautiful, transcendental, heart-opening!”
Photos by Prabhakar (www.pjtstreet.com) and Kautuhalam
Last Friday, Aug 28, the Songs of the Soul concert series presented a special concert in Manhattan once again dedicated to the music of Sri Chinmoy. This concert featured Boris Purushottama Grebenshchikov, who is a legend in Russia and often referred to as the Bob Dylan of Russia. The concert also featured Krishna Das, who is a legend in his own right as “yoga’s rockstar” and the best selling western chant artist of all time. His performance also featured Nina Rao, Sadanand, Nelson Myers-Daly, Pragunya (of Monk Party) and yours truly on fretless bass for the Krishna Das band. We were introduced as the band that had been together for an hour and half (which was about right).
Don’t miss the Songs of the Soul concert series coming to Canada this fall. These concerts of meditative music are free of charge and feature artists from England, Austria and Canada (in this case). Songs of the Soul has been all over the world since 2008 and is coming to Eastern Canada for the first time. These concerts are a tribute to the music of Sri Chinmoy.
The last series of concerts of the Pavaka Ensemble were at the beautiful Jharna Kala Gallery in Ottawa. This is a temporary exhibit of original paintings by Sri Chinmoy celebrating the 40th anniversary of the start of this artistic journey. The concert is free of charge and the setting is super unique! The gallery is currently open at 54 Elgin and the exhibit goes until the end of April 2015. The last concert on March 1st featured Sumadhur, Sangit Surabhi and The Pavaka Ensemble. The previous concerts in December and January were very well attended and well received.
The Songs of the Soul tour in the Balkans was wrapping up in Subotica, Serbia and everybody was in high spirits. The organizers, technicians and musicians were wrapping up a series of concerts that had started 10 days earlier in Varna, Bulgaria which had been a lot of fun and presented Sri Chinmoy‘s music to approximately 3000 concert-goers. I was also in high spirits, but I was also feeling a subtle anxiety creeping in. The explanation for this concern was not mysterious to me. I was about to embark on a new tour as part of one of an ambitious tour project. At the long-standing invitation of my friend Yuri, I was heading to Brest, Belarus for rehearsals that were to be followed by 6 concerts in Belarus and Russia. The band was to be comprised of 1 Belarussian, 3 Russians and myself. I had met these fine gentlemen before but only very briefly and had played very little music together.
Before getting to making some music, though, I had to get from Subotica to Brest, neither of which have an international airport. The solution, naturally (!), was to get a car ride to Budapest, Hungary, 2.5 hours from Subotica, then get a flight to Warsaw, Poland, then get an overnight train to Brest. That last part was what I was most concerned about. I had my visa for Belarus, but to travel alone overnight from the European Union into what used to be the Soviet Union had me concerned. With the very kind help of Jan in Warsaw, who picked me up at the airport, we made our way to the train station and we both agreed that it would be a wise use of my money to buy a first class ticket which gave me a private cabin for the train ride. As it turned out the ride was quite fine. The train attendant spoke no English, but we managed to work things out so that I got off in Brest. This train was traveling from Paris to Moscow ultimately. Warsaw is only about 200 km from Brest but the ride was 6 hours. I arrived in the wee hours where Yuri dutifully came to pick up Rostam and myself. Rostam was just completing 3 days on the train and was arriving from Chelyabinsk via Moscow.
The next 5 days saw the group of 5 of us sleeping, eating and practicing in the Brest Sri Chinmoy Meditation Center. The Center is a quite nice, newer 2 bedroom apartment on the outskirts of Brest. I had sent MP3’s and written music to all the musicians a few weeks before, but we still had to get 1 hour of music together in only a few days. The band consisted of Mahavrata, Sergey, Rostam, Yuri and myself. Sergey is a veteran professional drummer living outside Moscow. Mahavrata is an accomplished guitarist, signer, songwriter and flutist. Rostam was our youngest member and has been practicing meditation for 4 years. His inspiration and eagerness were invaluable during these 2 weeks. Although a fine guitar player, Rostam played various wind instruments in this context. Yuri was our coordinator, treasurer, translator and singer. I was traveling with my trusty Telecaster electric guitar and a few guitar pedals.
Brest is a relatively small town in a country that is as flat as Manitoba where I am from in central Canada. Belarus is sometimes known as the last European dictatorship as well as Russia’s potato supplier. Things in Belarus are orderly and people are quite content and happy. The crime rate is extremely low. When we weren’t practicing we were running for exercise. Only once did we go out for sightseeing where we visited a large fort that was very active in the Second World War. In fact, both in Russia and Belarus, there are many monuments to the war of 1941-1945. The other attraction for me was Orthodox Churches. I really like the icons in these churches. In general, it’s a lot like my native Catholicism both in appearance and feeling.
I had arrived in Brest early on a Monday morning and our first concert was Friday evening at the philarmonic hall in Brest. We were playing one of the smaller rooms that seats about 220 people. Our rehearsals had gone fairly well, but by the time the concert time arrived and after a not-reassuring soundcheck, I wasn’t sure that it would all come together. The advertising in the city seems to have worked because we had approximately 275 people in that room. That means that some were sitting on the ground or in the aisles and almost on stage! During the concert I still wasn’t sure if the audience was hearing something nice because I was making mistakes and I was hearing wrong notes here and there. It was also getting quite warm with all those people in that small room. I thought for sure that some people would leave. At the end of the concert, after 1 hour and 45 minutes, the room was as full as at the start and the crowd gave us an enthusiastic standing applause. As is usually the case for a concert for meditation we had asked the audience to hold their applause until the very end. This helps to create a nice atmosphere. After one week in Belarus, it seemed that our experiment had been a success. In spite of various imperfections, the audience felt the peace and harmony that Sri Chinmoy’s songs embody.
This first concert turned out to set the tone for our other 5 concerts. Audiences ranged from 150 to 300 approximately. In some places the halls were full , but in others, they were not. After every concert, people stood for the applause and many people came to speak to us after the concert asking questions. We even got nice comments posted on this very website. Pretty much every night I would have at least one elderly person going on and on in Russian about how (I presume) they enjoyed the concert. With my translators usually busy talking to other people, I could only nod and say ‘spaciba’ (Thank you). I would also get some young people who enjoyed the concert and were practicing some basic English. I answered quite a few questions about my guitar and the pedals I was using. I thought it was cool, for example, that a teenager with a Guns and Roses t-shirt would be intrigued by the equipment and mostly that he genuinely enjoyed the music.
In Brest and Minsk, our 2 Belarussian concerts, we were joined by Larissa who opened the concert with excellent singing and piano playing. Also Igor played some flutes at one point. In St-Petersburg the local boys from the Meditation Center put together some music as well. It was a first for me to hear Sri Chinmoy’s music as a Bossa Nova! In other cities it was just our group. Our set included 1 arrangement by Mahavrata that he and I played by ourselves. We also had a drum solo by Sergey and 3 songs by Mahavrata and Sergey, who are part of another group called Aspiration Flight. This would last about 75 minutes. At the end of each concert we would sing a song which has the following lyrics: “My gratitude heart always knows the way. My oneness-perfection always is the way” The fun part is that we sang it first in English then did the same song in Russian. In Smolensk, we played in a rather small hall that was over full and for this song the entire audience was singing quite loudly. I stopped playing guitar altogether to let them sing. It was great! In the meantime I was doing my best singing along with my phonetic Russian.
We travelled by car or van or train between each city. Both train rides were night time deals where every seat converts to a bed. That’s not so common here in Canada. This was considered third class but the wagons were quite new and everybody gets crispy clean bedding for the ride. To help us with all the organization along the way we had the ever-cheerful and soulful Vlad. If he wasn’t on the phone coordinating something he was cutting jokes with the guys which were clearly very funny. And if we couldn’t find him at any given time, he was off meditating somewhere. He is a young fellow like Rostam who has been practicing meditation for only a few years. On the day we were in Moscow he very self-givingly brought me to a cosmonaut museum which was a lot of fun. I felt like I was 10 or 12 years old because at that time I was determined I was going to become an astronaut and was very familiar with names like Yuri Gagarin.
When all was said and done, we played for over 1100 people in these 6 free concerts. In spite of our outer imperfection, the audiences were genuinely appreciative that we should present something like this in their city. There was a lady in Tver that was almost shocked by how unique a presentation it was, but simultaneously very happy to have had such an experience. I suppose that if we were anything at all, we were unique. But then that’s what has always attracted me to Sri Chinmoy’s music – It communicates a feeling and a consciousness that I’ve never encountered anywhere else before. The songs can seem simplistic and even childlike, but there is a profundity that can’t be found in any other music. Most of the arrangements that we played, I’ve performed hundreds of times, yet I don’t get tired of them. It’s like a musical miracle.
I feel extremely blessed to have been able to participate in sharing all of this with anyone who is inspired to come to a concert. I would like to thank all those who attended as well as my brother musicians, all the organizers and the new friends that we made along the way. Spaciba!
Thank you for the warm welcome that the Pavaka Heart Band received in Belarus in Russia! We held concerts for over 1000 people in Brest, Minsk, Smolensk, Moscow, Tver and St-Petersburg. It was great to share the vibe embodied in Sri Chinmoy’s music and it was great to meet so many lovely people! The band consisted of Yuri (Belarus), Rostam, Mahavrata, Sergey (Russia) and Pavaka (Canada).
The next concerts in the Songs of the Soul concert series will take place in Ottawa on October 5th and Montreal October 7th. These concerts are free of charge, but we ask that you reserve your seats in advance. Both concerts will feature Sangit Surabhi, The Pavaka Ensemble as well as The Sahadeva Orchestra. Sahadeva hails from London England and will lead an English-Canadian group to perform his soulful arrangements of Sri Chinmoy‘s music. Sahadeva’s arrangements are charactarized by jazz, R&B and gospel styles and these performances have been delighting audiences at Songs of the Soul concerts for the past 4 years. Sahadeva is also keyboardist and vocalist for the group Ananda.
The concert in Ottawa on October 5th will take place at 7pm the Centertown United Church at 507 Bank Street. Call 613 680 5727 for information or to reserve your seats.
In Montreal on October 7th, it will take place at 7pm at the Tanna Schulich Hall of McGill University located at 527 Sherbrook Street West. Call 514 387 5814 or 514 489 5692 for info and reservations.
This is the song Roar, Roar My Lion Heart, from the live recording CD entitled “Call Has Come”:
The musical groups Sangit Surabhi from Ottawa and The Pavaka Ensemble from Montreal will present a concert of music for meditation on Sunday July 6th at 4:30pm at the Atwater Library situated at 1200 Atwater Ave., Westmount, Québec H3Z 1X4.
After touring Europe, Canada and the US, these two groups want to share their meditative experience with a Montreal audience. Participants will be invited not to applaud between songs and to simply meditate while listening to the music. Seating will be on regular chairs. No prior meditation experience is needed. The concert will last approximately 90 minutes. All music performed will be arrangements of compositions by spiritual master Sri Chinmoy.
This concert is offered free of charge as a community service by the Sri Chinmoy Meditation Centre of Montreal. No reservations are needed.