New Age for Irishtown Gospel Hall

Chanting and Chai harmonise together.
Pictures courtesy of Bhakti Festival organisers.

The old Gospel Hall building on Irishtown Road, previously St. Matthew’s school, and used, up until recently, by the Abundant Grace Christian Assembly, hosted a very different type of event in October.
The neighbours are surely used to hearing diverse songs of praise emanate from the building’s ancient walls, but the Bhakti Festival brought with it a new type of congregation and a new type of singing. The singing in question is called Kirtan, which involves call and response chanting, so the audience at this particular church service, were very much involved in what was happening.

There was no priest, no preacher, no worship of any particular god, just people coming together to sing about peace, love and harmony. One of the organisers and performers, Felicity Ananda, commented that their vision for the festival “is to offer a safe, transformative, and healing space, in conscious community, to connect to our hearts through our voice and to dive into the experience of singing as a way to relax the body and mind and nourish the Soul.”
If that sounds very hippy dippy, and all a bit Woodstock, don’t be put off. NewsFour were present on the day, right in the thick of it in fact, and we have to say we found the whole experience infectious, uplifting, and more than a little inspiring.

We asked Felicity what is so special about Kirtan and she provided this thought-provoking insight. “For me it’s an offering of deep gratitude to the One Great Spirit, God the Divine. As I dive into devotional mantras, I join the omnipresent stream of consciousness and prayers that has been flowing throughout infinity since time began. The practice of Kirtan helps me awaken my innermost self and offers a space to connect with, and unleash the potent healing vibrations of my heart, through my voice, which invokes my inner life force, my inner Guru.”
Songs performed on the day appear to have been borrowed from all religions and none, meaning that everyone felt welcome, nobody was excluded, and the focus seemed to be more on worshiping the individual, than some elusive entity in the sky.

There were chants in Irish and Spanish, a short mantra that simply consisted of repeating the line “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”, a Jewish incantation about peace, and an old Celtic farewell blessing. And our favourite, at the same time wonderfully simple and mind crushingly complex, “I am in the light, the light is in me, I am the light.” Hang on a second, you mean I am the light? No wonder they never taught us that in religion class!
But the real highlight of the day was a rendition of the simple yet effective, “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna.” We have no idea what it means, but boy did they raise the roof, and man did it feel good. And isn’t that the whole point?
Taking part in the event were Felicity, founder of the first regular Kirtan practice in South Dublin, Chanting and Chai who host monthly musical collaborations at St. Francis Xavier Hall, Jack Harrison who combines Celtic and Kirtan traditions in a unique mix, and Yasia, who has been leading Come And Sing Your Heart Out Kirtan in Dublin for the past five years.

Money raised on the day went to support Epilepsy Ireland and Kolkata Sanved, which helps women recovering from sex trafficking.

by Paul O’Rourke