Sri Chinmoy is a much acclaimed figure in both the spiritual and musical worlds. His weekly meditation sessions at the United Nations for diplomats and staff are very well attended. Among the better known musicians who have studied his spirtually conceived stylist approaches are Carlos Santana, John McLaughlin and Larry Coryell. Sri Chinmoy's concert last night, held in the courtyard of the American Institute of Architects, featured the teacher and a number of his disciples, devotees and students. Like most school recitals, the fine moments sparkled in the still waters of mediocrity.
What was offered was a series of spirtual, religious moments, if you will. The ambience was decidedly mediative, passive energy manifesting Sri Chinmoy's basic belief in a supreme being as supreme musician for whom wordly musicians become mere instruments. It's an ancient and universal concept that unfortunately excuses many commonplace moments. The frequent rain and traffic and airplane noises distracted the audience's attempts at concentration; this was a presentation that begged for extended quiet.
Sri Chinmoy himself performed very little -- one haunting number on the esraj (a Bengali instrument with a hollow, cello-like tone) and a lovely very modern flute essay pretty much to make a deer lay its head in the musician's lap. There were two other offerings but most of the evening was taken up with male and female choruses in separate and rather pedestrian incantations. The women's unison singing was at least charming.
A surprise highlight was provided by a seven-piece orchestra (including a cello, sitar, harmonium and cornet) that assayed three sprightly tunes that evoked a combination of Renaissance dance music, Irish airs and Indian modes. The energies of the night sought their inspiration from Sri Chinmoy's teachings. On barely enough occasions, they came to fruition.