Angel Hu: Reconnecting With Devotion Through Music
Angel Hu became curious about kirtan after going through a divorce and taking time to study consciousness.
“I studied organizational psychology and felt surprised to know people like us don’t know how to define the mind,” she said. “I went down this rabbit hole of consciousness, looking at religion, philosophy, and more. I discovered a few shared truths across disciplines, and one of them was meditation.”
She started to explore different methods of meditation and read books on philosophy, and eventually stumbled on a kirtan session at the Bhakti Center in New York City, where she lives.
“After feeling the vibrations and good energy, and seeing people devoting themselves to music, meditation, and chanting, I started listening to more of this kind of music.”
It reminded her of being in the choir of the Christian church she grew up in.
“Singing and devotion was always something I enjoyed practicing and resonate with,” Angel said.
She was thrilled to receive a scholarship to attend Omega's Ecstatic Chant for the first time in 2018.
On the second day, she was chanting and felt something unlock inside of her.
“I held my hands up and let the tears come,” she said. “I was deeply moved by the resonance of the music and the vibrations. I couldn’t put words to describe it. Normally, I would want to run away from tears.”
She also felt very welcomed by the community. While at the dining hall, she met veteran participants of the weekend who suggested other artists to check out and resources to help her continue the practice at home. She continues to keep in touch with many friends made throughout the weekend.
She said the weekend also helped her to explore the creative musical side of herself that she had abandoned.
“I grew up in Hong Kong, where every child has to learn an instrument for educational, not creative reasons." Now, she says her relationship with music has changed.
“Music is a way of channeling this universal language of love and beauty,” she said.
It also helped her redefine what meditation looks like in her life.
“Meditation doesn’t have to be silent, sitting all day,” Angel said. “It can be fluid, movement, joy, sound, voice, and community."
Marianne & Randy Sutin: Inspired to Go Pro With Their Music
Marianne and Randy Sutin were both musicians with day jobs when they first attended an Esctatic Chant weekend at Omega in 2007.
"When we first started going, I was still teaching public school music full time, but not playing flute or performing at all," Marianne recalls. "Randy was working for tech support at the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, playing jazz gigs on the weekend."
Marianne said it was a last-minute decision to attend the workshop that first year. The couple had been to an R&R weekend at Omega with their kids the year before and loved it, and Marianne had been to a couple of kirtan sessions at local studios where she practiced yoga.
Marianne and Randy had never heard of Deva Premal and Miten, Manose, or many of the other performers before that weekend, but something clicked during one of the first sets for Marianne, who has played the silver flute since she was 12.
I said to my husband, “That’s what I want to do! I want to play that kind of flute, and I want to play that kind of music!"
Randy is a jazz percussionist and after talking with Steve Gorn, they became friends and started playing other gigs together.
"Steve was super nice and encouraging, and has become a great friend and inspiration to us," Marianne said.
Both Marianne and Randy were embraced by this community of musicians.
"At some point, I can’t remember when, Randy started to play with Gaura Vani," she said. "When some of the other people heard him play, they invited him to join in too, which is how he started playing at Ecstatic Chant with Jai Uttal, The Hanumen, CC White, Donna De Lory, and Ricki Byers Beckwith, and we both played with Dave Stringer for the first time at the 2019 festival. Randy has also sometimes sat in with Deva Premal and Miten."
"We retired from the day gigs two years ago. Ecstatic Chant totally changed both of our lives so much!" said Marianne.
Of course like many performers, the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted their professional lives. Marianne teaches private lessons for piano, flute, and voice for two different music schools, remotely from their home studio. Randy has continued to play some jazz, mostly livestream events, and also is doing production and movie scoring. He recently worked with Jai Uttal on a piece called Searching: A Corona Collaboration. You can listen here.
Both Marianne and Randy are so grateful for their time at Omega and excited for Ecstatic Chant Labor Day weekend to return in the future.
"We made lifelong friends at chant and have had more fun than anyone we know as part of this community of musicians and yogis." said Marianne.