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Buddhist monks present concert in appreciation of the Island

by Ann Thurlow

Three years ago, Islanders were a  little amazed to discover that PEI had been chosen as the new home for a Buddhist monastery. Amazed and a little delighted, too. The monks breathed new life into the long-closed Lobster Shanty North. They bought the Formosa Tea House and turned it into the Splendid Essence. They built a new monastery in Little Sands. And, through construction projects and open houses, the new residents also became new friends.

And so, to thank Islanders for the warm welcome, the Moonlight International Foundation is presenting a free concert. A 70-person choir from Taiwan, accompanied by a seven-piece orchestra, performed at the Homburg Theatre on February third.

The thanks are important to the group who supports the monks. But the concert itself is important, too. All the music was composed by the group’s spiritual teacher, Mary Jin. It’s an intriguing blend of Asian and European influences—sophisticated and whole-souled and complicated. It has been recorded and performed internationally. But this marks its first performance in North America. It will also mark the first occasion that Mary Jin will hear the choir perform her music live.

Geoffrey Yang and his wife Nicole Tseng moved to PEI to support the Moonlight Foundation. Relaxing over plates of fried rice at Splendid Essence, they talk about lives spent in the fast line—he in microbiology, she is finance—before they were asked to come to PEI. They were unsure of what they would find; they were perhaps a little amazed themselves at their warm welcome. People have flocked to the monastery’s open houses and have been eager to offer advice. “Maybe, it’s just because we’re nosy,” I suggest.

Yang laughs. “No!” he says. “people here are really nice.”

The concert, he explains, will serve four purposes for the group. It is an offering of appreciation,  an opportunity to reach out and establish more connections, a chance to share something that is special, and a chance to inspire and instill kindness. “You know the expression ‘pay it forward?’” he asks. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”

But there’s no containing his excitement at the concert itself. Though Mary Jin had no formal music training she began to compose music after many years of Buddhist practice. For her, and for her students, this music represents the sort of inspiration—the sort of deeper feeling and sensitivity that comes from many years of work and contemplation.

I tell my lunchmates a story about seeing a group of new young monks arriving at the airport in Charlottetown. They looked happy, but very bewildered, as if they were wondering what sort of a place they had come to. “I think” says Geoffrey Yang “they found out that they came to a very nice place.”

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