Imagine a choral sonic experience of over 70 voices, moving through the Ashram landscape—voices singing, reciting poetry—rippling with the water and sounds of a wind-chime tree, connecting with those who have come before and after, led by voices in the open tipi, voices high on the hillside, into the lavender field, walking through a column of voices into the still forest, through the garden to the orchard—humming bees, rippling sounds of poetry, singing beneath each tree—into the Temple of Light—sitting still within the sound in the centre of the Temple, experiencing ripples, fragments, heard throughout the journey.
For six days the Ashram was blessed with the sound of singing throughout the landscape as Corazon Vocal Ensemble and University of Western Ontario’s Community Through Choral Arts created a series of progressive concerts called Ripple Effect. Corazon director, Allison Girvan, describes how the concept for Ripple Effect changed many times through this creative process.
“It began with Jennifer asking what it would be like to do the Community Through Choral Arts course at the Ashram? Then I was involved with Nicola Harwood’s project about a sound temple to the female called «Summoning». When we talked about the title – Ripple Effect – it was asking, “What would happen if this just rippled out from this inspiration?” The consistency through it all has been the Ashram itself. It was really about trying to find a way to sing the land and the new Temple.
“It was also about how much influence we have over each other — both positive and negative — and how we need to remember that at any moment, what we do or say could have a lasting impact.
“I remember walking with Swami Lalitananda and being so encouraged by her enthusiasm about the land. When I would think about how it was all going to manifest, I would imagine her face and seeing it through her ‘lens’.”
Jennifer Moir, from the Faculty of Music at Western University, had been at the Ashram a few years earlier co-facilitating a Corazon retreat. “What the Ashram represents was a huge inspiration because of what the Temple stands for. It matched the ideals of the course. It looks like the same vision, slightly different language, but it’s really the same thing. It’s quite a beautiful coming together of all those threads.
“It was interesting to have a conversation with the students, who were asking, “How conscious were you of all the layers of community at the Ashram that we would be exploring—the idea of Ripple Effect, the question of how do we create something that would honour the possibility of being awake to choices and how they affect each other?”
“To do that in a natural landscape, to understand it in community with each other, to create different forms of community while we’re here —all of this was the genesis of the project.”
Masters student, Maxime Crawford-Holland, described the impact that the Ripple Effect had on him and the group. “I think I can speak on behalf of all the students when I say that the natural landscape is so beautiful, it has had a deep impact on all of us. We’ve talked about this as a group. Performing in the natural landscape has been such a cool experience, really spiritual. A lot of people have said that word, who have not necessarily been spiritual or consider themselves spiritual people.
“Even though it was our project, you all were a huge impact, not just by allowing us into the space but also the community that you have here and the openess, willingness and generosity to just embrace us, every step of the way. We’ve really felt that compassion—it’s that ripple effect.
“The fact that the Ripple Effect took place within your community has had a huge influence on the powerful potential of the project. I feel personally that I’m going to take something from here and share it with others and continue that ripple effect.
“It feels like this is very much a centre of hope. Maybe the ripple effect is itself hope. This place and the people here are so central to that ripple.”
This vision of hope is echoed in Allison’s experience of creating Ripple Effect. One of the images she explored at the very beginning was an oculus. “The idea that came was somebody without hope sitting in the middle. The morning light coming through the oculus at the top brought the morning bird and that was the harbinger of hope. At the time, it wasn’t in my mind that the Temple of Light has an oculus in the centre!
“I feel so grateful for what the Ashram has given to this project, and how selfless, generous and joy-filled everyone has been.”
Check out the beautiful Facebook photo album for a visual experience of the event.