Asian American E-Zine



Enter your e-mail
below to get
notice of new
issues only and
then hit enter

Strict Privacy Policy: AA E-Zine will not give your e-mail address to anyone!






Tapestry Vocalists in Concert
Tibetan Singing Bowls Used in SBU Prof.
Sheila Silver's Operatic Cantata on Buddhist Nuns
Commissioned by Smithsonian's Freer & Sackler Galleries
Called "tour de force" by Albany Times Union
Coming to Staller Center, Dec. 4th at 3pm

Special for SBU Students Only!
Rush Tickets All Week at Staller Box Office
Tickets Only $7 with SBU Student ID / 2 tix per ID

The Staller Recital Hall will resound with the voices of the female ensemble Tapestry on Sunday, December 4th, performing the operatic cantata, The White Rooster: A Tale of Compassion, and Song Of Songs: Come Into My Garden, A Portrait of Sensual and Spiritual Love.

Commissioned by the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries to celebrate their 2010 exhibit, In the Realm of the Buddha, The White Rooster was composed by Prof. Sheila Silver, Undergraduate Director of SBU's Department of Music. Freer and Sackler are among the preeminent Asian galleries in the United States.

Silver’s compositions have been commissioned and performed by orchestras, chamber ensembles, and soloists throughout the US and Europe. She is the winner of the 2007 Sackler Prize for Music Composition in Opera for The Wooden Sword. The librettist is Prof. Stephen Kitsakos of SUNY New Paltz.

The White Rooster was written for the four female singing voices of Tapestry who will be joined at Staller by Takaaki Matsuko on percussion. It uses traditional Tibetan melodies along with chant, ensemble singing, aria, and spoken dialogue. Tibetan singing bowls and ethnic hand drums are the unique accompaniment. The bowls, tapped with hammers or rubbed on the exterior or interior, produce beautiful harmonic resonance.    

The White Rooster tells a story within a story celebrating the power of individual acts of compassion. It is a musical interpretation of a mythic Tibetan folk story placed within a contemporary setting in the tradition of a “play within a play.” The only instruments are the six Tibetan singing bowls, which are generally played by the women, and hand drums played by the percussionist. 

The basic premise of the story is of five Tibetan Buddhist nuns fleeing to India when one is shot by a soldier. They take refuge in an abandoned hut. To pass the time while nursing their wounded sister, they reenact an ancient Tibetan tale of suppression, liberation and forgiveness. In the end, help comes from a most unexpected source. Emanating a spirit of reconciliation and healing, the piece celebrates the power of individual acts of compassion.

One assumes the role of the young nomadic girl, Diki, while another becomes the White Rooster, wrapping herself in a white scarf. One day, Diki’s herd of yaks disappears. Searching for them, she hears a beautiful voice singing and comes upon a white rooster who can speak. He promises to help her find them if she will come back the next day, and when she does, he begs her to marry him. In exchange he will care for her and her sisters. Realizing that he “is no ordinary bird,” and out of compassion for him, she agrees and passes a pleasant year at his side.

One night, wandering outside, she follows his singing to find a “handsome young man arms stretched to the skies.” She returns to the cave, sees the white rooster’s skin on the floor, and realizing the young man and the rooster are the same, throws the rooster’s skin into the fire hoping to release him from whatever spell enchants him.

The young man tells her she has made things worse. As a prince he rebelled against the demons and they punished him by transforming him into a rooster. He must remain in this state except for one hour each night when he could be his true self. Without the skin he is doomed to be the slave of the demons forever. The only way to liberate him is if she wears the skin. The skin magically returns and they all begin to chant.

When the chanting grows to a heightened passion the power and mystery of it is broken by a knock on the door. It is the doctor who has heard their singing and been drawn by its power. The nuns are afraid he will report them but he convinces them to let him treat their sister. The doctor extracts the bullet as the women chant together. Asked why he has saved this life, the doctor explains that he has suffered too and wants to save her life because “every act of kindness counts.”       

Because the Smithsonian is a U.S. government institution, the text could not be construed as political. The word “Chinese” was never allowed to be used; so the nationality of the border guard and doctor are never identified. By instead focusing on their common humanity, the narrative becomes universal.

Silver said, “In the end, I kept the abstraction. The nun is shot by a border guard and is saved by one of the occupying doctors. It is a fact that Chinese doctors are not allowed to treat Tibetans who have been protesting or been injured while trying to leave Tibet. So his action puts him at risk. In any case, the piece is so much about compassion - there isn't an angry note in it."

"So the doctor belongs to the group of people who also shot the nun. He saves the nun. It is his individual act of compassion which is the climax of the story.”   .  

Priscilla McLean of the Albany Times Union called The White Rooster a “tour de force.”  In her review she wrote, "The music was fascinating, using Tibetan chants, modern harmonies and interweaving original melodies with much variety. All the bowls and singers combined for a strong finale, and Masuko continued playing the bowls to end the cantata in a timeless sonic gesture."

Check out the incredible sounds of Tibetan singing bowls at the link below - though they will be a far better listening experience live at Staller. Sounds like it will be an exciting performance! And for students, with rush pricing available all week, not just before the show, it's a definite steal!
Tapestry will also perform Song of Songs, interpretations of Biblical text that includes chants, medieval compositions, cantillation, and improv between vielle (Medieval fiddle) and percussion. They will be joined by the “amazing” vielle player Shira Kammen.           .

Non-rush tickets can be ordered online at, by calling Staller at 631-632- ARTS, or by stopping in. Student rush tickets can be purchased at the Staller Box Office. Hours are Mon-Fri 12-6pm and 1 hour before each show.     

- Ja Young, Alumni Editor

After playing for Osaka Philharmonic, percussionist Takaaki Masuko came to the US in 1979. He performs with diverse music ensembles in the US, Europe and Asia; recorded with MCA, Zoning, Northeastern, and Flying Fish; collaborates with dance, theatre and multimedia projects, most recently Second Hand Dance on Broadway; and is co-founder of Sabana Blanca, specializing in silent film accompaniment, and HourGlass. Studied at New England Conservatory and is faculty at Longy School of Music.


Sheila Silver: The White Rooster

YouTube demonstration of Tibetan singing bowls


Join the 2400+ subscribers - sign up to get an email of each new issue at