Houston is a remarkably diverse city — and in no domain of city life is that diversity more apparent than in its faith communities. Many communities in the city have created a sense of home for themselves through membership in churches, mosques, temples and the like. It is not surprising, then, that most of these communities have fostered rich sacred music traditions.
For three years, Houston Arts Alliance’s Folklife + Traditional Arts Program has organized a concert featuring a selection of these traditions. As with all years preceding, the 2014 "Voices of the Spirit" lineup will share an entirely unique group of musical traditions from years past.
Pandit Suman Ghosh is a senior disciple of the renowned Padma-Vibhushan Pandit Jasraj-ji. Pandit Ghosh is an especially noted flagbearer of the school of Hindustani music known as Mewati Gharana. Now a seasoned and celebrated vocalist and musician, Pandit Ghosh is a third generation musician who began his involvement with music at the age of 7 under the guidance of his mother. He continued to study with other well-known teachers and graduated eventually to work with the living legend of Indian music, Pandit Jasraj-ji, who transformed him into a full-fledged performing musician.
The Soul Influence is a five-man African-American a cappella gospel quartet who perform everything from what is known in the Black church as "The Old One Hundreds”"to more contemporary Christian vocal music. They maintain a style, based on four-part harmony (thus, the term quartet), which is seldom heard these days. In fact, their style is likely familiar to most listeners as comparable to doo-wop, an early form of rhythm and blues music that emerged in the 1940s and gained widespread popularity in the 1950s and '60s.
The members of Chung Mei Buddhist Temple, both the Venerables who conduct the dharma services there and the Adepts who assist them, are followers of Fo Guang Shan and the International Buddhist Progress Society, founded by the Venerable Master Hsing Yun. The temple was established in Stafford in 2001 and is home base to a small but energetic group of Buddhist nuns, referred to as Venerables. The Venerables lead the dharma services utilizing intoned praise and chanting as central to the worship activities of the congregation. They instruct key members of the congregation in the use of traditional liturgical instruments such as the gong, hand cymbals, drums and other percussion to accompany this aspect of Buddhist practice.