L.A. to Kick Off Dalai Lama’s World Festival of Sacred Music


Gospel choirs, Tibetan monks and nuns, traditional Hawaiian dancers and musicians, Bosnian and Croatian choruses, Native American drum circles and the Los Angeles Philharmonic represent only a small sampling of the global mix of artists scheduled to perform in more than 60 Los Angeles venues during the World Festival of Sacred Music--the Americas, Oct. 9-17.

Initiated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and described by its directors as “an intercultural, interethnic, interfaith celebration,” the event will span five continents. L.A. is the first city to participate in the global millennium event, to continue in Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe through fall 1999 and spring 2000.

The local festivities kick off Oct. 10 at the Hollywood Bowl with the “Sacred Americas Concert"--featuring the Philharmonic performing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony--with the Dalai Lama on hand to address the gathering.

Other performances will include Balinese gamelan; Canadian First Nation music and dance; Jewish, Armenian and Ethiopian choruses; indigenous music of the Brazilian Amazon; Sacred Harp singing; Iranian Sufi music; and chorale, chant, drum and dance traditions of Pacific Island nations.


The festival is coordinated by the Dalai Lama’s Foundation for Social Responsibility in conjunction with Tibet House, New Delhi, under the direction of Lama Doboom Tulku, in association with the Foundation for World Arts and the Earthways Foundation. It is also part of the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Millennium Celebration, and is endorsed by the Interreligious Council of Southern California and the San Fernando Valley Interfaith Council.

Festival director Judy Mitoma says that about a year ago she received a letter from the Dalai Lama indicating that Los Angeles was under consideration as the American site for the festival.

“Until I got the letter from the Dalai Lama, I had not heard of a millennium project that I thought was worthy of the transition that was about to occur,” Mitoma says. “It was inclusive, embracing, and of course connects the arts and music with faith-based organizations.”

Mitoma, founding chair of the UCLA department of world cultures, was among the organizers of the 1990 and 1993 Los Angeles Festivals under artistic director Peter Sellars--also citywide, multivenue, multicultural events. Mitoma said the experience prepared her to present Lama Doboom Tulku with a more specific and detailed festival plan than other cities under consideration. “I think that, as well as the multicultural nature of Los Angeles, led to the decision,” Mitoma says.


Sellars has served as a consultant on the Sacred Music Festival, and former Los Angeles Festival officials are contributing to this event as well. The always-struggling Los Angeles Festival, originally conceived as a triennial event, never returned after 1993--but, Mitoma says, “I like to think of this festival as an incarnation of the Los Angeles Festival.”

Mitoma says festival organizers have $600,000 left to raise to fund the $4-million to $5-million festival; the larger estimated figure is mostly comprising of in-kind donations, with support from Cultural Affairs, the James Irvine Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and individuals.

Participating venues include the Armand Hammer Museum and Cultural Center, John Anson Ford Amphitheater, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, Museum of Tolerance, Museum of Latin American Art and Watts Towers Arts Center. Synagogues, churches and other places of worship will also host events.

A schedule of events will be released June 15. Information: (310) 208-2784.