(From For the record, Saturday, April 8, 1995): Clarification: The Tibetan Buddhist monks who will perform Sunday at The Met are not the same monks who performed in Spokane in 1983. The concert preview in Friday’s Weekend entertainment section did not specify the monks are from a different monastery.
The Gyuto Tantric Choir, a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Gyuto Monastery in India, is touring the U.S. and will appear at The Met on Sunday.
The monks last exhibited their ceremonial songs and dances in Spokane in December 1993.
The purpose of their visits is to raise money for their monastery in Southeast India.
Until recent years, Westerners weren’t able to observe the private and sacred buddhist ceremonies of the Tibetan monks.
However, because the Tibetan monks’ monastery has been continually flooded by refugees fleeing Chinese-occupied Tibet, the monks have had to tour the world in an effort to raise money to accommodate for the growing numbers.
Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, in a press release, said: “Some people may ask, ‘Why are they performing publicly what should be esoteric rites?’ Perhaps these people feel that secret teachings should not be turned into a theatrical spectacle. Based on their inner achievement, the Yogis (monks) can unfold energies which can serve the benefit of the entire country. … These ceremonies have a great benefit for the whole society.”
Further, the monks will only enact portions of their prayers. Some rituals take nearly two days to fully execute.
On Sunday, the Gyuto monks, who will dress in golden ceremonial garb, will be performing ritualistic dances, music and their distinctive multiphonic chants.
It’s the meditative chanting that makes these performances intriguing.
The chants of the Tibetan monks are like no other religious chant. Fans of Gregorian chanting are likely to be startled by the Tibetan form.
Their other-worldly chants, crafted during the 15th century, gurgle in a droning, low-range, almost eerie, manner.
It takes the Tibetan monks many years of isolated training in the Himalayas to develop low-end, guttural chants, a style that reaches even lower then the Western ones.
Once learned, a Tibetan Monk can evoke three notes - a full chord - simultaneously. Together, the Gyuto Tantric Choirs can rumble the foundation of a building.
The monks will be using a minimal assortment of instruments to accompany their chants and dances. Instruments include long, collapsible horns called dhan chans, and various bells and percussion instruments.
There are a few compact discs available featuring the distinguished chants of the Tibetan monks.
Two of them - 1987’s “Tibetan Tantric Choir” on Windham Hill and “Freedom Chants from the Roof of the World” on Rykodisc - were produced by Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Gyuto Tantric Choir Location and time: The Met, Sunday, 7 p.m. Tickets: $15, $13 for seniors/children under 12