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|Courtesy World Festival of Sacred Music|
"I also like the incredible variety of the program, and how low-budget it is," Salonen adds. "There's no major corporate sponsorship here, and it's all based on voluntary participation and people donating their services. It's a festival that's very unlikely to exist, yet it exists, and I find that encouraging."
The odds were indeed against the World Festival of
Sacred Music, which took root two years ago, with no budget, on a suggestion from the Dalai Lama. "In December of 1997, I received a letter from Tibet House inviting Los Angeles to participate in a global millennial project slated to begin in 1999 and take place sequentially on five different continents," recalls festival director Judy Mitoma, who founded UCLA's Department of World Arts and Cultures. "We held a series of public forums to see if there was an interest in doing one here, and discovered people were incredibly enthusiastic. Hundreds of people donated their services, L.A.'s Cultural Affairs Department donated $70,000, and from there the budget grew to $875,000."
L.A.'s festival will be the first in the series, which includes similar celebrations to take place in Cape Town, South Africa, and Bangalore, India. This, the inaugural festival, will present 85 events over a period of nine days, at venues ranging in size from the Hollywood Bowl, which seats 18,000, to yoga studios that accommodate 100. Approximately 68 churches, synagogues, theaters, museums, parks and schools throughout Southern California will host events. The festival is too vast to be comprehensively dealt with in a single article, so what follows is a sampling of events. Comprehensive listings of this week's events can be found in Calendar.
Things start off with a bang on Saturday, October 9, with three marathon events occurring simultaneously. Activities begin at 5 a.m. and continue until 10 p.m. at Senshin Buddhist Temple, where artists from around the world will perform. Barnsdall Park has a similar multiethnic program that goes from sunrise to sunset, and "A Day of Drumming" begins at 9 a.m. at MacArthur Park, and continues until midnight.
The Monks of the Drepung Loseling Monastery take up residence at the Hammer Museum at 11 a.m. Saturday to begin work on a sand mandala. "Our monks travel 10 months a year doing mandalas and performances," says Geshe Lobsang Tenzin, who'll lecture at the Hammer at
4 p.m. "We don't expect people to subscribe to our beliefs, but we believe that performing these sacred songs and creating sacred art contributes to the healing of the world." (For more, see Art feature.)
Across town, at John Lennon's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (on Vine across from Capitol Records), a
celebration will be held at noon for Lennon's birthday
(October 9). Among those attending will be Bryan Mulvihill, a Canadian artist who's developed the World Tea Party, a performance piece that involves serving hundreds of cups of tea.
"Tea is an integral part of a particular kind of human interaction, and meeting over tea often involves sharing music and poetry," says Mulvihill. "This is the seventh of the World Tea Parties, which have taken place all over the world. I've made a tea trolley that has its own water source, fire, and drawers full of teacups and paraphernalia -- it's an instant tea party, and we plan to visit different events and serve different teas that reflect them. There'll be a huge birthday cake at the ceremony for John Lennon's birthday, so we'll serve a typical English midday tea there."
Early that same afternoon, the Los Angeles Latvian Choir performs with the Armenian Women's Chorus at the Latvian Lutheran Church in Silver Lake. "Ours is a folk choir rather than a church choir," says choir member Davis Kaneps, a first-generation Latvian immigrant who came to L.A. in 1997 to pastor at the church. "We're performing in our church, but instead of doing a concert for ourselves by ourselves, we wanted to open things up, so we invited the Armenian Women's Chorus to join us. I'm excited to hear them, because Armenia was one of the first countries to be exposed to Christianity. Latvia was one of the last [in Europe], so it will be interesting to hear how their Christian liturgical music, which dates back to the fifth century, compares with ours."
Beginning at 2 p.m., the Percussion Artists Workshop can be heard at the Japanese American National Museum. A local organization formed in 1996 to preserve and perform ethnic percussion music, PAWS specializes in Afro-Caribbean music, and its seven-piece ensemble will present a program of Cuban music. "The sacred music of Cuba has roots in Yoruba culture, and is sung in Lucumi, which is a West African language," explains PAWS director Jake Alba. "We'll be performing the Sacred Bembe, which is a celebration for the gods based on the idea of master drummers enticing the gods to come down. This music is at least 5,000 years old and isn't intended for outsiders, so to see it performed onstage is a rare privilege."