Whenever the head of Shinnyo-En, Her Holiness Keishu Shinso Ito, performs a major Buddhist ceremony, the Shomyo choir always always accompanies her. The Shomyo choir has already performed at ceremonies in Hawaii, New York and at Daigo-ji monastery in Kyoto.
Shomyo, or the ritual recitation of prayer texts, has a thousand-year-old history in Japanese Buddhism. Originally the melodies of the Shomyo were only passed down orally from master to student, and it was only later that they were recorded in notated form. Shomyo plays an important role in the teachings of traditional Buddhism. One of the major centers of Shingon Buddhism and home of the mother temple of Shinnyo-En, Daigo-ji has an important place in the history of the Shomyo tradition.
The Shomyo Choir appears in varying configurations. In Berlin, 20 members of the community from Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Japan, and Belgium have come together for the Saisho Homa ceremony in Berlin. They will be accompanied musically on the “sho,” a traditional wooden Japanese wind instrument.
As the international choir’s members have only rare chances to rehearse, they are always a happy occasion for old friends to reunite and catch up with each other. The choir has performed together for many years and their passion and concentration mean that their performance always gives the audience a profound experience of Shomyo.
The chance to appear alongside choirs from other religious communities in Berlin has been met with great anticipation and curiosity by the choir members, for although Shinnyo-En has taken part in events together with other religious communities before, the Berlin appearance with Christian, Jewish, and Turkish choirs is a very special occasion for the Shomyo Choir: “We are really looking forward to the exchange with the other choirs, since dialogue with other cultures and religions is a matter very close to our hearts as Shinnyo-En members.”