When East and West Meet: The Buddha’s Light Youth Symphony Orchestra in Concert at St. John’s Cathedral, Los Angeles
Hsi Lai Temple is a fully engaged spiritual and cultural center committed to bridging East and West by making the Buddha’s teachings of kindness, compassion, joyfulness, and equanimity accessible in ways that all might come to know the true nature of things. The Guibord Center’s presentation of The Buddhas Light Youth Symphony Orchestra’s at St. John’s Cathedral with Conductor Jorge Luis Uzcátegui was a beautiful and powerful example of their remarkable work.
It was by all accounts an extraordinary evening. Over 50 young musicians from ages 8 to 18 delighted a packed house with a performance that went far, far beyond expectations. Parents and brothers and sisters spilled out into the audience teeming with adults, families, friends and strangers alike, awash with easy comfort and cozy laps for sleepy children of all ages. What they experienced together was something quite extraordinary.
It wasn’t just that the young musicians from Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple were as accomplished as they were adorable… and they were adorable. One little boy in particular exemplified their disarming blend of innocence and grit. Impeccably dressed, he leaned forward, bow ready, violin in position, eyes glued to the conductor, music open, ready… only a second glance revealed the striped socks sneaking under the perfectly pressed trousers on feet too little to reach the floor.
His colleagues were each just as focused, just as intense, as reverberating with eagerness and energy. They had come with their families early in the day to rehearse, to settle in, to prepare under the watchful eye and baton of their immensely talented conductor.
The dedication of these youngsters (and their families) was palpable. Impressive. Inspirational.
But it was not just these young performers from Hsi Lai Temple and the young adults who joined them that made the evening so special, it was something at the very heart of the music itself, something elusive, profound and difficult to explain, something of the Temple itself.
The ancient Chinese understanding of sound is profoundly different than the Western view.
The Chinese traditionally believe that all sound plays a powerful role in influencing the harmony of the universe. Where the West tends to see music as entertainment, the ancient Chinese believe that music is meant not to amuse but to purify one’s thoughts and energies. In keeping with the Dharma, the pure and clear melodies of Buddhist Music are designed to provide a pathway to the higher spiritual states.They heal, enrich and re-energize the heart and mind.
And that’s exactly what the music did in the hands of these dedicated young musicians and their special conductor. The Buddha’s Light Youth Symphony Orchestra lifted world-weary hearts and filled the space with joy.