Spirituals Choose Chanting

Unison Arts Center hosts sacred chanting services twice a month.
Unison Arts Center hosts sacred chanting services twice a month.

A sacred chanting service, combined with sound healing, singing bowls, gongs, poetry and music continue to be held at Unison Arts Center in New Paltz twice a month.

This sacred chanting services are led by three spiritual teachers: Joseph Jastrab, senior teacher and lead facilitator for the Hero’s Journey Foundation; Amy McTear, a spiritual counselor and sound healer; and Dahlia Bartz- Cabe, Montgomery resident,  meditation counselor and sacred songwriter.

The services have been held for about three years now, according to Bartz-Cabe.

“About three years ago Unison contacted Amy and Joseph and approached them to see if they were interested,” Bartz-Cabe said.  “Before I got involved more it was kind of like a round robin.”

Bartz-Cabe originally attended the chants before she started leading them and about a year and a half ago, she said she spoke to McTear and Jastrab and asked to help. Now they practice together the weekend before the chanting service and although each leader might not always be at every chanting service, at least two leaders usually attend.

“We try to work around if someone has to be out of town, the other two have to take over but we like it best when all three are there,” Bartz-Cabe said.

The current leaders like to include special guest musicians and vocalists in addition to encouraging group participation. According to McTear, some of the other artists involved are flautist David Levy, electric bassist Bruce Schneider, vocalist Dona Ho Lightsey, Adam Bradley on didgeridoo, Steve Gorn (who plays bansuri bamboo flute) and drummers Ami Fixler and Janet Gardner.

McTear said many of the chants they use now are Hindu because of Yoga’s popularity, but they also incorporate African American, Sufi, Islamic, African, Christian and Guatemalan chants. They create a lot of original chants as well, by taking basic phrases from different traditions and making their own melodies.

“We draw from as many world traditions as we want to at any given time. It’s universally spiritual and not related to one denomination or religion,” McTear said. “We like to begin with chants and poetry from different world traditions and spiritual tradition.”

Bartz- Cabe said playing music and singing together is an important part of her spiritual practice. She feels that singing and chanting together is a fairly common practice but to do so with a diverse religious base is very satisfying and unique.

“Chanting and singing things from different religions is my personal way of fostering religious diversity,” Bartz-Cabe said. “Religions very often divide rather than unite, and that’s a tragedy. Religious division has caused so much tragedy in the world bringing unity not diversity.”

McTear feels that this is a great gathering that addresses wellness and togetherness.

“Chanting is a sacred unity within and with other,” McTear said.

According to Carol Robins, executive director at Unison Arts Center, the services last for an hour and a half and start at 10:30 a.m. Unison welcomes people from different backgrounds and religions, and about 30 people attend each chanting service.

Chanting services are offered every second and fourth Sunday of each month with a requested donation of $10, but no one is turned away for inability to pay, said Robins.

More information about the service can be found www.unisonarts.org.

Bartz-Cabe, McTear, and Jastrab also work in conjunction with Karuna Teresa Foudriat facilitating monthly “Dances of Universal Peace” in New Paltz, which are Sufi in origin, the mystical sect of Islam.