In this festive season, whatever you are celebrating (or not), let’s hear from Triratna musicians in the northern hemisphere making “a joyful noise unto the Lord”. (Not that Lord.) Listen to all the music mentioned below.
Joe Richardson is a mitra living in the Scottish Borders. His resonant voice is already known to some of us in his version of the Karaniya Metta Sutta; now he’s set 10 of Sangharakshita’s poems to music and he’d love to hear from other Triratna musicians and singers doing similar things.
Joe writes: “I was sitting by the campfire one evening at the International Gathering at Adhisthana in May this year, when Sumana began to sing, accompanying himself on banjo. I thought it was maybe a Neil Young song, but it turned out to be a version of Bhante’s poem, ‘Secret Wings’. I had never really ‘got’ Bhante’s poetry - it seemed awfully old fashioned - but it came alive when I heard it sung. The next morning Sumana taught me how to play it, and another of Bhante’s poems which I call ‘Pilgrim’ but have not found in print. During the clear-up we played it together, along with Joe Hill and Shantikara.
I thought I might set more of Bhante’s poems to music. The first one I did was ‘Sri Pada’, to which I added the Pali lines from the Buddha Puja about worshipping the ‘lovely lotus feet of the Lord of Sages’. Then someone directed me to another setting of ‘Sri Pada’ by a Swedish mitra named Annika Román.
There are 10 songs in my set, which I’ve called “The Starriness of Things” after the line in ‘Secret Wings’. The tunes for ‘Secret Wings’ and ‘Pilgrim’ are Sumana’s; ‘Winter in the Hills’ is set to a traditional Irish air; the rest of the melodies are mine. I performed the whole set at Innerleithen Music Festival in Scotland in August, which went down surprisingly well considering nobody had a clue who Sangharakshita was!
The tunes came together in about 6 weeks over the summer and my friend Paul Rae helped me record them, all in one evening at his cottage, mostly in one take. Over the course of the project I have really come to know Bhante in a completely different way and enjoyed creating devotional music in collaboration with him.
I’m available to play at any Buddhist Centre or gathering (dana welcome) - maybe with a bit of Pali chanting with sruti box thrown in too?!”
Listen to all the music mentioned here. juniper.bank.cott [at] gmail.com (Contact Joe) with feedback, ideas or enquiries.