‘Peace Sounds’ is a music album celebrating Peace in and around us, lovingly produced by “Wake Up London and Friends”.
The seeds of Peace Sounds were planted last summer in London’s Hyde Park. A number of us from the Heart of London and Wake Up Sanghas were gathered for one of our “Joyfully Together” picnics where we meditate, eat, share and sing songs together.
We include Thich Nhat Hanh’s practice of walking meditation in our gatherings. To quote from his book, Peace Is Every Step:
“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
Hyde Park, one of the largest in our city, is our piece of countryside, and silently walking together there feels like a gift indeed. We had warm sun that day and the old tall trees brought us shade. I remember just how the sunshine softly lit that afternoon.
With songs sung and food eaten, we were talking over Thay’s forthcoming tour. Sister Elina Penn (Little Earth), from our Wake Up Sangha, proposed a musical adventure that we could write a song to be released with his tour. I guess you never know what will come about when a project begins, though I felt full of its magic during my bike ride home! That night I was up until 4 a.m., composing “Walk with Me My Friend”, inspired by our day together.
With a good six months before we had to begin Thay’s tour preparations, we began talking about more music and from there, the other songs emerged too.
Mailing the Wake Up list brought some more musicians and we requested other songs from artists we already admired.
Little Earth and I collaborated—the first-ever recording of her magical voice. Both she and Kim McMahon performed versions of Plum Village songs. Kim and I also collaborated for her track. Little Earth had heard her sing an told me, “Joe, we just have to have her voice on the record.” Hearing Kim sing was a beautiful discovery; I feel honored to share her voice with the world.
The same goes for Chris Goodchild. He recorded “Life is Beautiful” especially for this project, a song he’d sung that first day in Hyde Park. To spend time with this gentle man was touching enough, but to capture his song was so special. We just left the mic on… I was humbled.
Pianist Tom Manwell and singer James Wills are friends from here in London. I recruited them and four more artists whose work I’d admired: Northern England’s Jackie Oates, London’s Cornelius, Ireland’s Nathan Ball, and the U.S.A.’s Joe Reilly, whom I had heard through his connection with Plum Village (Joe’s song, “Tree Meditation”, features brother and sister monastics, and was recorded there). Finally, we were gifted with recordings sent by Manchester-based Hilary Bichovsky and Brighton’s Gavin Kaufman; they had heard about the project through their meditation groups.
The process involved bus trips around London and the rest of the United Kingdom, carrying a microphone and guitars. I made some recordings in artists’ homes, where we drank tea, ate cake and meditated together. Other songwriters came to my place in London. I recorded my own song at my family’s home in Cornwall, a peaceful costal area, amidst sea air and warm days last summer.
To gather these songs was to soundtrack a sense of honest and, I feel, revolutionary love. Here were individuals responding to life by singing about it and sharing their passion outward. This collection of songs carries that feeling for me, a considered response to what was moving in each singer’s musical soul. I feel a fearlessness in each of them, to stand up for what they feel is worth caring for.
Listening to the collection, I feel a huge sense of gratitude. As I watch the album trailer clips (see www.peacesounds.org), I’m brought back to a sense of reverence for love and peace that was as much in the songwriters’ homes, e-mails and letters, as it is in their songs.
You can listen to the album online, download it for a donation (follow links on the website), and buy a copy by mail-order. Proceeds go to the Community of Interbeing UK, which makes meditation available here within groups, in schools, and on retreats.
Wake Up Young Buddhists and non-Buddhists for a Healthy and Compassionate Society is a worldwide network of young people practicing the living art of mindfulness (wkup.org).
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