Jnanarakshita writes from Triratna’s Birmingham Buddhist Centre with news of an unusual opportunity for people at Triratna’s UK centres - and elsewhere. It’s a tour by Rich Batsford, a mitra training for ordination into the Triratna Buddhist Order, but also a very talented pianist and singer-songwriter, on which he’ll be promoting his latest album, Mindfulmess.
Jnanarakshita writes - “This will be an excellent opportunity for people in the UK to hear Rich play live. He used to be part of the Birmingham Buddhist Centre sangha, but more recently has been living in Australia and exploring options with both the music business and various Triratna situations down-under. The dates arranged on the tour so far include:
9 June Croydon Buddhist Centre | 22 June Colchester Buddhist Centre | 23 June Birmingham Buddhist Centre | 30 June Brighton Buddhist Centre | 21 July Ipswich Buddhist Centre | 8 Sept Leeds Buddhist Centre | 15 Sept Bristol Buddhist Centre | Plus a few select non-Triratna venues including the Edinburgh Fringe: for more details (plus sample tracks, videos, etc) see his website richbatsford.com
To give an idea of the treats in store, following is a review I wrote of the Mindfulmess album:
“The practice of mindfulness is becoming much more widely known, to the point where Oxford and Bangor Universities have research programmes into the subject, and the latter offers a mindfulness-based master’s degree. Some departments of the UK’s National Health Service are also beginning to offer mindfulness-based meditation. Little surprise then perhaps that it should become a subject for exploration in the realm of popular culture and music. Mindfulmess is Rich Batsford’s second album, but his first collection of songs (following his debut Valentine Court, a selection of piano instrumentals).
Rich accompanies himself on piano on all of the 11 numbers on his latest disc. He readily acknowledges the influences of the Beach Boys and the Beatles (“We owe so much to those who went before to H.E.L.P. us on our way”; “let Brian make me smile”; “a child of the 60s me, living in a world of Let it Be”). Indeed, Rich backs his spacious melodies with layers of gorgeous harmonies (all his own voice), evoking the optimistic Californian sound: “get outside in the sunshine and try love again”. There’s a cover of I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times and, “now that forty years have passed”, Rich’s reply (both to his former self, and to Brian Wilson) with Guessing Again.
And of mindfulness? As the sleeve notes suggest, “We tend to assume that our happiness is tied up in our circumstances and so we spend a lot of time planning for the future, or worrying about the past. Through becoming more mindful, we can aim to be present in the moment and open to whatever arises. In getting to know our minds, we create a chance to change them and then, who knows…?”. The opening and closing tracks come closest to overtly charting meditative processes. The former looks at what it’s like to “Listen in on what may be inside”. In the latter, Everything and Nothing, “What do I find, when I start to question everything? Everything I do starts in my mind”. Awareness of others isn’t excluded either: Easier for Her; For Ali (wherever she may be). As we become more mindful, the mess we’ve been trying not to notice can no longer be avoided. Your Thing and Jobbery reference the perils of compromising our (true) individuality.
Like Pete Townshend, Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan and countless others before him, Rich is thoughtfully sharing the early fruits of his spiritual wanderings, and encouraging us to do the same. This is done sensitively, and for me doesn’t get in the way of what is plainly a set of great tunes. Listening in to Mindfulmess, it might well be Rich’s cascading piano hooks that catch you first. On Til Dawn feels to me at once both ‘very young and very old’, deserving favourable comparison with more than a couple of pop classics (that in their turn owe a debt to Terry Riley’s In C and Rainbow in Curved Air)”.