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Nara to Norwich: A Night of Religious Musical Traditions from the UK and Japan

Event - Sainsbury Institute - St Peter Mancroft - Hay Hill, Norwich NR2 1QQ

Tuesday 21 May, 2024
7:00pm BST - 8:30pm BST

Tickets available through the Norfolk and Norwich Festival website here.

The Nara to Norwich exhibition is the result of an international, collaborative research project that aims to explore the Silk Roads beyond their current limits of the Chinese and post-Roman worlds. Focusing primarily on the interactions between early Buddhism in east Asia and early Christianity around the North Sea, the project explores the microhistories of material culture, landscapes, and literature to weave a narrative concerning the transformation of religions as they journeyed eastwards to Nara in Japan and westwards to Norwich in Britain.

In conjunction with this exhibition, we will be hosting a night of performances that embody the main themes of the project, exploring the evolving musical traditions of worship at St Peter Mancroft, as represented by their choir, and Buddhist o-shо̄myо̄, or ritual chant performed by Karyōbinga Shōmyō Kenkyūkai from Japan.

For their performance, St Peter Mancroft choir will begin by using plainsong as a starting point to a musical tradition that has evolved over time. English polyphony was widely used in the fifteenth century when Mancroft was built and this performance will incorporate the music that has been used in worship in the church in different periods to give an insight into a developing tradition. 

The evening will also feature an introduction and shō performance from Professor Fabio Rambelli, Professor of Japanese religions at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

About the performers

St Peter Mancroft Choir 

The Karyōbinga Shōmyō Kenkyūkai Ensemble (Kashoken), founded in 1980 by Buddhist Shingon School priests, aims to study, propagate, and preserve shomyo ritual chanting in the tradition of the Buzan Sect. Initially led by Yuko Aoki, the group gained acclaim in 1966 for their ancient liturgical chant performances, followed by successful appearances in Japan and Europe. The ensemble, named after the mythical bird Karyōbinga symbolising transcendental understanding, comprises 90 members from Shingon temples across Japan, touring internationally with varied line-ups.

Fabio Rambelli is professor of Japanese religions at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he holds the International Shinto Foundation chair in Shinto Studies. His publications include Buddhist Materiality (2007) and The Sea and the Sacred in Japan (2018). He also plays the shō, which he studied under Maestro Bunno Hideaki and Maestro Manabe Naoyuki. He has released two CDs: New Heritage (with his trio) and Pearls (with his unit Neo Archē), both by Edgetone Records.


This event forms part of the Japan in Norwich programme, celebrating 25 years of the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures.

Nara to Norwich: A Night of Religious Musical Traditions from the UK and Japan is a Norfolk & Norwich Festival, Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures and St Peter Mancroft presentation, programmed by the Sainsbury Institute and St Peter Mancroft.

The Nara to Norwich exhibition and associated research project is generously sponsored by the Toshiba International Foundation. This exhibition and associated events are also generously supported by the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, the Japan Foundation, and the Nara Visitors Bureau.

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