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updated: 3/13/2018 9:17 PM

'Celebrating Life and Community Through Music' continues with Javanese Music of the Gamelan

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  • The Friends of the Gamelan will perform Sunday, March 18, at Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist services.

    The Friends of the Gamelan will perform Sunday, March 18, at Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist services.
    Courtesy of Tree of Life UU

Submitted by Tree of Life UU Church

Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 5603 Bull Valley Road in McHenry, will present its first performance of Indonesian Gamelan music in McHenry County at 10:45 a.m. Sunday, March 18, as part of its "Celebrating Life and Community through Music" series.

The service will feature the Friends of the Gamelan, led by Alex Yoffe. The ensemble dates to the 1970s when local musicians gathered at the Field Museum in Chicago to play the instrument brought to the United States in 1893 for the World's Columbian Exposition. They have since acquired two of its own Gamelans and also have access to a bronze instrument at the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia. They perform regularly in a variety of venues and have been included in events like the Michigan Festival of Sacred Music.

Friends of the Gamelan perform both traditional Javanese music and contemporary compositions, some by members of the ensemble.

A Westerner might think of the Gamelan as some sort of exotic orchestra, but in Javanese tradition it is a single instrument with multiple parts and players.

Alex Yoffe explained, "I am so drawn to this music because of its communal nature. All of the instruments are necessary and each person's part is essential to completing the piece of music. You need a community in order to play this music and there is no concept of a soloist. Experts can play alongside total beginners and they can create music together. I think that is a very powerful concept."

Tree of Life initiated its "Worship Through Music" series last November with music of Spain and Latin America. In February, the offering focused on music of Japan and Eastern Europe with the Hanauta Duo and will continue with contemporary American music on May 13.

These worship services, facilitated by the Worship Arts Committee and the congregation's music director Forest Ransburg, are designed to offer the joy of sharing music while growing a sense of sacred community through appreciation of cultural diversity.

There is no charge to the public but a freewill offering will be taken. Childcare is available for infants and toddlers.

The public is invited to stay after the service for a chili cook-off where they can taste and vote for chili choices that are hot, mild, sweet, with meat, and vegan. The cook-off is an informal kickoff to Tree of Life's annual pledge drive.

For information, contact or (815) 322-2464. Visit

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