Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Krishna Das Does Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Miami.

by Gilbert Wesley Purdy

Krishna Das greets fans as Father James Reho looks on.

Here, on the shores of the North Bay, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral has brought Father James Reho onboard, as Assistant to Dean Douglas McCaleb, for, among other things, creative ideas. Father Reho brings with him years of training in Indian and Western mystical practices, and, as the result, the Cathedral now hosts a Tuesday night Mystical Poetry Group, led by Peter Rogen, and a Thursday night Yoga Group led by the Father himself.

While dedicated to these small, intimate groups, Reho has been working on much bigger projects as well. Pulling off his first major coup, he managed to convince world renowned kirtan chanter (properly called a “kirtankar”) Krishna Das to put on a concert, in the Trinity Cathedral on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2009. The event was attended by over 900 people, ranging in age from children at their mother’s breasts to confirmed geriatrics. Many more had to be turned away at the door the cathedral’s capacity having been reached.

Dedicated Krishna Das fans in peasant skirts and blouses, and in blue jeans and tie-dyed t-shirts, have been compared to the fans who used to follow The Grateful Dead from concert to concert in VW bus caravans. In the words of a recent New York Times article:

If you’ve ever taken a yoga class where a rich, sonorous voice chanted on CD, chances are it was Krishna Das, who has become so popular over the last five years that he now performs at mainstream venues like the Wadsworth Theater in Los Angeles, the Berklee Performance Center in Boston and last month at Town Hall in Manhattan.

Yoga networking sites and free press release sites across the Internet had been spreading the word for weeks. “Das will be appearing in Miami!”

Kirtan (from the Sanskrit, meaning "to repeat") is a participatory call-and-response style of yogic chanting, the texts consisting of the names of the Hindu gods (sometimes alternately referred to as “the names of God”) and simple words of praise. Krishna Das frequently points out that his chants are not meant to be statements of belief in the Hindu gods but spiritual mantras available to all faiths (including atheism). It’s not about belief in any religions,” he is quoted as saying, in the Times article, “so people are coming from all walks of life.” He has also written a chant based upon the hymn “Amazing Grace”.

A very sturdy looking, 62 year old, Krishna Das, backed by an ensemble of simple instruments, had the crowd chanting, swaying, clapping their hands and dancing in the aisles for two hours. The following is a brief and rather “impressionistic” YouTube video of the event:

The cathedral hopes to have Krishna Das back again next year although steps will be taken to prevent kirtan cage-dancing in the Bishop’s pulpit on the next occasion.

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