Third Vancouver Sacred Music
Festival, 10-12 November 2001
Music is either sacred or secular. The sacred
agrees with its dignity, and here has its greatest effect on life,
an effect that remains the same through all ages and epochs.
--Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
The sound of a single voice echoes throughout the great stone
church. Then another note appears, floating eerily above the first
tone and harmonizing perfectly with it. The harmonies change,
come and go, always with a dynamic of loud and soft; high and
low. And all the sound is coming from one man: Jerry DesVoignes.
After years of admiring the music recorded at the World Sacred
Music Festival in Fez, Morocco (now in its 8th year), I am attending
the more local, more cozy Vancouver Sacred Music Festival in British
Columbia. Taking place over three days, at three sacred venues
in Vancouver, the festival began at St. Andrews Wesley Church
in the heart of the city with a harmonic overtone singing workshop
The workshop was a perfect beginning to the festival, because
while it demonstrated the great skill of a musician, it was also
about audience participation and about sacred music on the most
fundamental level: that which can be produced with nothing more
than the human voice.
Of course, the festival also included many instrumentalists, including
everything from the Vietnamese ko ni mouth-resonated fiddle
of the Khac Chi Ensemble to an astounding pentatonic pyramid instrument
brought from France by seasonal healer Fabien Maman.
The festival began three years ago only when some friends gathered
for an evening of music and sacred poetry, after which they decided
they should share the concept more broadly as a sacred music festival.
Around the same time, the Dalai Lama expressed his interest in
promoting sacred music to ring in the new millennium. Through
what festival founder Nancy Fischer calls a string of miracles,
the Vancouver organizers became part of the Dalai Lamas
series of World Festivals of Sacred Music, hosted a representative
of the Dalai Lama, and later sent a group of Canadians to meet
with the Dalai Lama in India.
With the festival boasting of 160 performing artists representing
over 30 spiritual traditions, it was surprising to discover
no representation of African traditions this year, and just one
group representing Latin America (though Saturdays program
ended with a Cuban bata drum session featuring south Indian
drum master Trichy Sankaran!).
Still, this is just the third year for the festival, and the diversity
of the lineup is impressive, ranging from Native flutist Jody
Gaskin to the Total Experience Gospel Choir to Turkish master
Latif Bolat. And the diversity extends to the venues: Following
Saturday at St. Andrews Wesley Church, the festival moved to the
elegant Temple Shalom Synagogue on Sunday and to the University
of British Columbia First Nations Hall of Learning on Monday.
For anyone who cant make it to the Fez Festival and
for those seeking a gentle introduction to world music
this is a great festival to lift your spirits amid gray November
skies. Even a three-hour wait to re-enter the US because of heightened
post-September-11 security didnt dampen my spirits. I just
used it as time to practice my new overtone-singing skills!
For more information:
Vancouver Sacred Music Festival:
Jerry DesVoignes One Voice Harmonic Choir: www.ovhc.org