San Francisco Ballet Fans: RAkU Composer Shinji Eshima and Principal Dancer Pascal Molat to Participate in San Francisco Zen Center’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, ‘A Concert for Peace’, June 4, 2012

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If this sound byte is hauntingly familiar to you, causes your tear ducts to go into overdrive, and you are not of the Buddhist faith, one can safely assume you prescribe to my religion: you are a SFBalletomane. This centuries old Buddhist chant, the ‘Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo’, roughly translating to “We are here to listen to your suffering and we chant for your well being”, happens to also be an excerpt from Shinji Eshima’s powerful RAkU score-the chanting in the audio clip above provided by monks from the San Francisco Zen Center and accompanied by the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, conducted by SF Ballet Music Director and Principal Conductor, Martin West. 

Pascal Molat in Possokhov’s RAkU composed by Shinji Eshima; Photo © Erik Tomasson

Shinji Eshima, RAkU’s composer, commissioned by San Francisco Ballet’s Choreographer in Residence, Yuri Possokhov, is a grandson of one of the first female Buddhist monks in the U.S, so it isn’t any wonder that his luscious RAkU score is empowered by the chanting of the San Francisco Zen Center’s monks, who also chanted live from the orchestra pit of the War Memorial Opera House during the 2011 and 2012 performances of his ground-breaking ballet music. 

Composer Shinji Eshima from SFZC’s blog

The Eshima/SF Zen Center bond strengthens tomorrow night when Mr. Eshima will be contributing his considerable talent to the San Francisco Zen Center’s 50th Anniversary event: ‘A Concert for Peace’, an evening of music, dance, and poetry. In addition to mezzo soprano Sally Munro premiering a new piece of Eshima’s, the event will also feature a new Peace Bell created by famed sculptor Al Farrow from bullets and artillery and “played” in a dance performance by none other than Pascal Molat, San Francisco Ballet’s Principal Dancer who danced the role of the ‘Monk’ in RAkU. There also will be Butoh by Judith Kajiwara, and a story dance by Brenda Wong Aoki and her Emmy-award winning husband Mark Izu. Chihiro Fukuda will play the great Bach Chaccone and the concert will conclude with Jose Granero playing the sublime Mozart Clarinet Quintet.

San Francisco Zen Center Monks with composer Shinji Eshima at San Francisco Ballet’s ‘RAkU’ in 2011

Oh…and there will be chanting by the monks of the SF Zen Center.

 For tickets, full programming, and other deets to this event, go here 

All proceeds will benefit the SF Zen Center and her sister temple in Japan, Shinryu-in Temple, damaged by the big tsunami/earthquake.

One of the San Francisco Zen Center’s students, Tova Green, first met Shinji Eshima when she was asked to chant at the San Francisco Ballet’s performances of RAkU and here is her interview with the expressive composer.


SF Ballet in Yuri Possokhov’s RAkU, featuring Yuan Yuan Tan & Damian Smith; music by Shinji Eshima


  San Francisco Ballet Principal Dancer Yuan Yuan Tan on Eshima/Possokhov’s RAkU. Note that Pascal Molat dances the role of the monk beginning at the :40 marker. 


A conversation with RAkU composer Shinji Eshima, double-bassist of the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra for 29 years, on his collaboration with choreographer Yuri Possokhov, courtesy of San Francisco Ballet.

For Odette’s 2011 review and slideshow of the Yuri Possokhov ballet RakU, featuring Shinji Eshima’s score of the same name, go here.

This is a terrific opportunity to enjoy ‘top drawer’ artists of multiple genres, while feeling good about donating to a worthy cause.

Hope to see you there! 

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About Odette's Ordeal

'Ballet's Head Cheerleader'
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