Chanting as a River: Creating the Monastic Chanting CD
By Brother Phap Linh
In October and November 2018, thanks to the generous support of the TNH Foundation, we were able to realise our dream of producing a new CD of monastic chanting, titled Chanting as a River. The grant from the foundation allowed us to invite two professional musicians and choir directors, Shane Jewell and Emily Pruiksma, to come and stay with us for almost three months, in order to offer their guidance and support throughout the whole process of learning the chants, recording them and editing the recordings in order to produce a CD.
For me, it was a real gift to be accompanied by such generous and talented musicians. My own training as a musician was as a cellist and a composer, but not as a choir director, so the project brought me into some quite uncertain territory. Shane and Emily were a crucial support, as fellow musicians, but also fellow practitioners on a path of transformation and healing through music. They shared with me the fruit of many years of practice and insight on the path. We all have wounds and insecurities, and sometimes as musicians those wounds can be deep as a result of highly competitive training. We learn to judge ourselves and others harshly and often what should be our greatest joy becomes obscured by tension and anxiety. With Shane and Emily I was able to heal deeply some of these old wounds and as a result the practice of chanting became more joyful for all of us!
My hope was that by working with a small group of brothers and sisters on this project, bringing Shane and Emily’s signature joy and vitality to the practice of chanting, we would eventually be able to transmit that spirit to the whole monastic community. I feel that this dream is really coming true now. I hear from my brothers and sisters that the chanting practices are now much more nourishing and joyful — they are generating energy for our whole community, rather than taking energy.
“For me the most wonderful part about participating in the project “Chanting as a River” was to have the chance to enjoy brotherhood and sisterhood. It was a wonderful chance to get to know better my brothers and sisters. We chanted together, we enjoyed life together, and we felt very good we put our energy in something that aspires to nourish compassion, courage, awakening and liberation.” - Br Duc Tri
We are so grateful to have had the spiritual and musical company of Shane and Emily throughout this project. When we first asked them, “Would you come to Plum Village and help us make some music, and maybe record a CD?” they said yes! right away, courageously cancelling all their plans for the Fall. We were very aware of the magnitude and the amazing freedom of that decision and felt so lucky to have such good friends on the path. This has been a true Sangha production, and many people have invested their time and creativity to capture the spiritual energy and atmosphere of Plum Village in these recordings. It has been our great joy to travel this road together, cultivating seeds of awakening through the practice of chanting, and it is our deep wish to be able to share some of the joy and energy generated by this project with the wider world through these recordings.
Towards the completion of the project, when perhaps a certain amount of pressure was making itself felt, my elder brother, Thay Minh Hy, reassured me, saying, “Don’t worry, everything is already done. There is nothing more that needs to be done.” He continued, very much in the spirit of Emptiness, Aimlessness and Signlessness as taught by Thay: "At first, I was not sure if we could realise this project, but then I had an insight: I saw that we are the notes, and the music is brotherhood and sisterhood. Now, when I see the energy of joy and the love that has been generated in our group of brothers and sisters, I know that the song of brotherhood and sisterhood has already been sung, and so I know that what we needed to accomplish has already been accomplished.”
The Monastic Chanting CD is available for download here.
Your generous giving made this program possible, through the Foundation’s Dharma Outreach Grants Program.
To make a donation to the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation, click here.
Photos by Emily Pruiksma