Harmony of Sacred Sounds

As the stage was prepared for the next part of the program, the names of more of the special guests attending the ceremony were read aloud on stage, as each guest stood up to greet the participants. During this time, a large group of presenters slowly made their way down the aisles of the Prayer Field. They wore hakama, a type of Japanese traditional dress, and carried ôgi, or folding fans, in their hands.

The Harmony of Sacred Sounds program was a new and special part of this year’s SOPP ceremony at Fuji Sanctuary. Arranged and directed by Mr. Kenji Williams (who also performed the Musical Prelude to open the ceremony), it was a spiritual musical odyssey, featuring music and song from three different religious traditions, as well as original music and choreography.

To begin, Mr. Williams (violin) was joined by Mr. Tomohito Ohno playing the shô, a Japanese wind instrument. Their instruments blended together in a slow, atmospheric composition as the presenters moved with measured, purposeful movements to their places in front of the stage. There, as the music continued, they performed a special choreography with the folding fans. On each fan was written a single Japanese character with a light-filled meaning, such as love, beauty, kindness, forgiveness, or health. After this, the music ceased and the presenters continued with a special movement-based prayer for the awakening of the divine spark in all humanity. Their movements and vocal sounds filled the sanctuary with a soothing, spiritual vibration.

As the performers exited the Prayer Field, the music recommenced, and the performances flowed smoothly from one to the next. First, Mr. Humayun A. Mughal, who in years past has led the Islamic prayer at the SOPP, sung the azân, or Muslim call to prayer. Then, Rev. Ohashi Jihou, Kensho Koyama, Seiku Ogawa, and Tetsuji Fujioka from Tenreizan Tonenbo temple performed sacred Buddhist music and chanting, played on horagai, or large conch shells, handheld bells, and a large drum.

The next performance was by Tomohito Ohno, Nobuaki Kawamura, and Shizuo Suzuki from the Gagaku Music Society of Tenri University. Gagaku is ancient Japanese imperial court music that includes Shinto religious music and folk songs. The music was performed on three wind instruments: the shô, hichiriki (a type of oboe), and ryûteki (transverse flute). As their performance ended, Ms. Kristin Hoffmann performed an original composition called “Ocean in Me,” which she sung and played on the keyboard. In a special version for the SOPP, Ms. Hoffmann sung the words “May peace prevail on Earth” during the chorus.

Immersed in waves of musical harmony and interfaith harmony, participants vivaciously applauded the performers as they returned to the stage for introductions. Then, as the ceremony neared its end, Byakko Deputy Chairperson Yuka Saionji addressed participants with some closing remarks.

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