On June 20, 2015, nearly 100 musicians and artists gathered in the courtyard of Hsi Lai Temple in front of the Main Shrine, to show their original Buddhist-centric artwork and play original live music. Many were the first to combine eastern and western musical instruments, playing together while blending musical textures to create a SoHo artistic style. The 2015 Music and Art Festival was organized by Lotus SoCal. The criteria for the musical performers were: to play all instruments live with no recorded music or karaoke; and play only original songs, as most did.
The Venerable Abbot Hui Dong opened the festival with a moving speech, commenting that music is a universal language that can bring all people together, regardless of their race or religion. The theme for the festival was “Practicing Compassion Through Music and Art,” and in doing so, express the compassion of Buddhism and allow all people to experience Humanistic Buddhism through this creative outlet.
The Buddha’s Light Youth Symphony Orchestra opened the Festival at 4pm with their rendition of “You Raise Me Up,” followed by “The Light,” an original song written by Hsi Lai Temple members Mario Cee and Mandy Zhang, mixing the acoustic 12-string guitar with the operatic vocals of Heather Sung. Also, playing live music was Love Monkee, a local acoustic rock band led by singer Yvonne Magana; the Hsi Lai Temple Drum Troupe, led by master drummer Irene Yin. Ever in Bloom played their unique spiritual indie-folk music, California style; the Sitar and Tabla, traditional Indian music, was played by Evan Hatfield and Rajol.
The 15-member zither, pipa, flute and er hu ensemble, led by Crystal, energized the evening in perfect magical unison. Next up was The Lotus Band, led by Mario Cee, with three young multi-cultural musicians - one of the four original songs they performed was “Manna,” lyrics by Master Hsing Yun, music by Mario Cee and vocal arrangements by Ever In Bloom. “Manna” was performed with zither and pipa, it was a fusion of American folk-rock with Chinese musical styles. Next up was the Hsi Lai Temple Er Hu Band playing two beautiful songs in traditional Chinese style; the melodies were soft and sweet, perfect for the moment as the day was cooling down. Closing out the evening’s musical performances was Cadoan, five musicians from Los Angeles, with flowing, mystical music of Celtic and Northern African influence. The day can be summed up as an eclectic mix of music from SoCal folk-rock to Indian sitar and tabla to Chinese zither, pipa and er hu, Celtic and Northern African sounds; musically, the festival traveled the world! Through music it is possible to promote the exchange of Eastern and Western cultures by spreading the beautiful sounds of Chinese and American music.
The booths included displays of artwork, arts and crafts, Buddhist art, games, food and information about Hsi Lai Temple and Lotus SoCal. The Hsi Lai School teachers and students showed visitors how to make traditional Chinese lanterns, fireworks and fans using the Chinese red pockets.
Danelle DiBari-Starustka, who creates beautiful artwork using steel and wood, came from San Francisco to show and sell her work; visitors were very impressed with her creations. Emmy award winner Donna Kay Lau, the founder and director of the Surf Soup Foundation, displayed her surfboard to raise awareness and to promote the importance of protecting the ocean’s environment. Elaina Arras from Herbie’s Rock Pile displayed beads and other Buddha related decorations and shared stories about her creative beginnings with the guests. In addition to all the unique vendors, was Bob Hurton, better known as Uncle Bob, the artist in residence at the dA Center for the Arts at the Arts Village in Pomona.
It was a busy afternoon that closed in the early evening with a meditation session guided by the Abbot. He led the visitors, artists and musicians through an experience to “find yourselves” through the observation of the beauty in music.