The Sacred Music Festival will bring together pastors, priests, Tibetan monks, Native Americans, rabbis and all things spiritual. The festival will host not just gospel music performances, but also Jewish sacred music, Hindu music, Aruban prayers, drum circles, Vodou ceremonies, African ballet and even spontaneous local jazz. “We’re going to have different, diverse faith leaders doing prayers at the beginning of each night,” says Sallie Ann Glassman, who is organizing the festival’s debut. Glassman got the inspiration after visiting Morocco, where they have an international sacred music festival. “Being in Morocco and hearing the call to prayer and the beauty and mystery of the place, I really wanted to do this for New Orleans,” she says.
The festivities will take place at The New Orleans Healing Center, a deliberate choice meant to foster a positive message for the area. “We’re going to start with a prayer at St. Roch Cemetery and a silent procession with candles to bring peace to St. Roch Avenue, which has a terrible murder rate,” Glassman says.
Organizing the event has forced her to learn the many customs that will be involved. “The community response has been unbelievable,” she says. “I only wish I had the resources to document the entire process because we learn so much about the meaning of peoples’ different traditions.” With so many faiths involved, there are a lot of things to take into consideration. There will be alcohol-free zones in respect of Muslim and Hindu traditions, and the alcohol will be covered in the venues that are being used. “It’s not hard to do,” Glassman says. “It’s just how they see the world, so we want to be respectful of everybody’s traditions.”
The event is meant to be an experience of music and how human suffering leads to the creation of sacred art and music. It is also an avenue for troubled youth of the area to see music as a healing tool that brings peace and understanding, and as an alternative to drugs, abuse and violence. “That’s really what’s at the heart of this—to provide an alternative to people that’s uplifting that they can actually experience,” Glassman says. “We want to bring healing to a community that needs it. We want to help people and we want to empower people in a way that’s positive.”
For details, go to NewOrleansHealingCenter.org.