2014-10-02 / Faith Community

Sound Advice: Chant to Feel Better

By James Merolla


Part of the Newport Community Chanting Group at Emmanuel Church. Part of the Newport Community Chanting Group at Emmanuel Church. At first blush, it may seem incongruous, or contradictory. Chanting, third-eye chakras, meditation, and Sanskrit texts that go back 1,000 years or more, all being invoked in the chapel of an Episcopal church.

But organizers of the Newport Community Chanting Group – the Duttons of Newport – say the chapel is a sacred space, and that the spiritual chanting they do regularly for 90 minutes on most Saturdays is “the power of sound, our God-given voice.” Equally important to the sounds of chanting, said organizer Carol Dutton, are the reflective silences which follow. “The silence is when the spirituality comes,” she observed.

Over two years ago, Dutton read about a chanting service in the newspapers taught by Ana Hernandez, an expert in the field, who has written many of the songs and chants the group follows.

She took her adult daughters, Meghan and Katelin, with her to Hernandez’s workshop and Dutton said their lives have changed through the power of spirit sound. “It was an all-day chanting session and it really touched me that day,” said Dutton. “Just feeling the power of sound is so transforming and so healing. I said, ‘I want to find out more about this.’”

Dutton started chanting every day. “I felt really good. The more I put it into practice, the better I was feeling. It’s spiritual and very meditative,” she said. “The power of the spirit is beautiful within each one of us.”

The weekly chanting meetings at Emmanuel Church improve focus, raise energy levels and help listening skills while opening up the spiritual artery, according to Dutton.

“Some of the chants are 1,000 years old. People have been doing them for a very long time.”

Last November, Dutton and her daughters opened up the chanting to people from all walks of life, many of whom had never done anything like it before. Some were battling physical ailments, one was pregnant, and others were sublimating the ongoing stresses of modern, everyday life.

On Saturday, Sept. 20, 10 people including the Duttons and Mother Anita Schell, rector at Emmanuel Church chanted for 90 minutes. On a table next to them were books and CDs with titles like“The 7 Secrets of Sound Healing” and “The Sacred Art of Chant.”

The group repeated chants in song with surprisingly deft, organic harmonies and, occasionally, a fugue-like quality. “Into my heart… light of lights into my heart…” repeated over and over in song. “Come lift our spirit into my heart,” built to a crescendo, then soft as a whisper, almost becoming its own echo.

The silence reverberated, with the chanters absorbing the sensations of the after-chant, warding off the effects of stress and tension.

The last half hour was devoted to the seven chakras, or energy centers, of the human body, from the root chakra at the base of the spine up to the crown chakra at the top of the head. The chanters held their hands over each chakra area and exhaled long, measured sounds, ending with the familiar “ommmmm.”

“We put it out into the community. We feel so good doing this. We want to bring out that good feeling and put it into a box,” said Dutton.

The group will kick off its autumn schedule with the arrival of Dutton’s mentor, Ana Hernandez, to the sacred space in the All Saints Chapel of Emmanuel Church, on Saturday, Oct. 4, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Another workshop is offered Sunday afternoon. Participants are welcome to stay for the “Sundays at 5” service, followed by a simple supper.

Dutton thinks it is the best way for Newporters to learn for themselves the joy that comes from the spirit of sound.

You do not have to be an experienced singer to join the group. It is open to all who are interested. For more information, call the Emmanuel Church office at 401-847-0675.

TO GO

“Practicing Presence: Singing as a Way to Peace and Freedom” WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 4,

9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

“The Sacred Art of Chant:

Preparing to Practice” WHEN: Sunday, Oct. 5, 4-5 p.m. COST $10 for one session or $15 for both. WHERE: Emmanuel Church,

42 Dearborn St. MORE INFO: 401-847-0675

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