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Bio Page

✨🙏✨
G
ive Peace a Chant (GPaC) community gathering was active in
Vancouver, BC 🇨🇦 from around
2001 – 2015.

Our last gathering was in 2018.
GPaC BIO & Journal (below). More on our past events here.

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SPECIAL GUESTS • KIRTAN ARTISTS (EVENTS)
Until 2015, we also hosted, or co-hosted special guests in Vancouver. Kirtan special guests have included
the late, great Shyamdas, Karnamrita Dasi, Gauravani, Radhanath Swami, Mayapuris, Jai Uttal, Krishnadas (large events sponsored by Banyen Books), Srikala, Dave Stringer, Daniel Paul, Bhagavandas, Gina Sala, Heather & Benjy Wertheimer and Shantala, Jaya Lakshmi (Kirtronica), and Women of Bhakti (film premiere) and Adam Bauer’s Kirtan from the Heart, too.

We also hosted many local musicians and guests 🇨🇦 and received the help of many wonderful volunteers, too.

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For more info. please contact Sandra Leigh at sandraleigh108(at)gmail(dot)com. Thank you for your patience as the Mailchimp link here on the website is temporarily out of order.


GPaC BIO & Journal
It was 2001, just after September 11,
a few of us were taking a YTT course together, and as a part of our training, we began offering ‘live’ conscious music / meditation gatherings that were to become a regular Friday chant night in Vancouver, BC.

That was a looooong time ago, now!

From my diary, I will try and describe from 2001 – 2005 (ish) when we advertised with posters or sometimes, in local free papers and we didn’t have social media, yet. We worked non-stop to make the get together, as a team of various volunteers, fund raisers, that included local guests , musicians, friends, family… all different backgrounds, including First People’s Blessings, that our events take place on traditional, unceded, occupied territories of the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish (Sḵwxwú7mesh), and Musqueam (Xwméthkwyiem) Nations.

Our fund raising efforts included a regular donation to The Vancouver Food Bank, in the form of  vegetarian food donations. We also enjoyed sharing Prasād and people often brought snacks to share. Sometimes, there was delicious chai, too. 😛

Then, after some time, we had to move studios, and so we branched out, and started adding more Sanskrit chanting. Meanwhile, learning to write and read the script called Devanagari. I’ve heard Sanskrit called the “language of angels”. It is a very beautiful language (to my ear) and is difficult to master and I am still learning!

The purpose of this BIO journal, is to share reflections, remembering our singing, practically raising the roof right off the studio. Gratitude for all who played a part of the GPaC event and chant community!

Friday night GPaC (below, in 2012), we shared a nice run of yoga studio fund raiser celebrations. This one was for Vancouver Foodbank, we often donated vegetarian food. Later, this studio was demolished!

And, more memories!

2004 – 2005 – GPaC’s CDs, A Loving Flame / Peace Through Music w/ Sandra Leigh, David Embry, Lyle Povah, and beautiful singing community in Kits, 2004-2005. Produced by Greg Birdsall. Recorded live, in the above yoga studio in Kits, with community. Great fun!

2005 (or so) – Welcomed Rob Scharein, and soon after, GPaC’s first website went up, thanks to Rob. He also created GPaC songbooks. Then, as we evolved, we enjoyed Rob’s wonderful slides and if we were lucky, he would present a short talk on astronomy. Rob also archived many years of ‘GPaC’ Live audio recordings, videos and photos. A heart-felt thanks to Rob, and to all the volunteers who helped the GPaC community!

Around this time,  we also began hosting more visiting guest artists.

From 2001 – 2008, I worked at Banyen Books and Sound, and would help Banyen Sound’s Kirtan events in Vancouver. Banyen sponsored larger events and concerts, like Krishna Das, for many years. Thanks to my hours working at the bookstore, (and a good old bulletin board) I made many great friends and connections.

Eventually, I would take the GPaC program out to more places, including yoga conferences, festivals and mini-tours around BC 🇨🇦

2008 – GPaC joined social media and began more networking online, and attendance at bi-weekly events went way up!

2009 – Forever remembering local beauty, Chantal Jolly, my karmic soul sister. Chantal shared her incredibly beautiful singing, Bass, Guitar and 12 String with GPaC. Singer, sound-healer, and a highly accomplished and compassionate musician. After a very long, hard fought battle with breast cancer, Chantal left us in 2009, but her passing songs healed our hearts, leaving our lifetimes changed forever!

2009 – Sandra Leigh, in Vraj.

2009 – It was immediately following Chantal’s passing away that I went to India, still feeling her presence while on this trip. She told me once, she always wanted to go to India! Chantal also told us she would be of more help (to all of us) from the “other side” and she said this, even though she was more of a science minded person!

It was on this 2009 INDIA retreat, that I met Shyamdas for the very first time, in Vrindavan, across from a place called MVT. He was buying bananas. It was a memorable meeting for me. I got his number, and I went back to my room (excited) hoping to share with my retreat group, but sadly, no one wanted to take up the invitation to go visit him in Jatipura! I felt it was a missed opportunity, to be sure. The Teachings of Shri Vallabhacharya translated by Shyamdas was even on the retreat reading list, but the itinerary was already set.

When I returned from  the retreat in India, we held a celebration of life for Chantal, at the Canadian Memorial Centre for Peace in Vancouver. We sang her favourite songs together, and I shared the story of how Chantal and I met, and how we had an odd commonality, in that, we were married to the same man! Not at the same time, of course! But oddly, we became friends and healed together, before she passed. Even though she was unwell, Chantal never missed a gig, and she had a smile that would often light up the entire room. She moved to the West End, getting an apartment a couple of blocks from my place, so, we spent some important time together. We had some kind of Karma, maybe some magic… who knows? Bless HER!

2010 –  The year came and went and GPaC continued playing and by now, we were getting more participants and including a ‘Celebration of Light’, singing in Sanskrit. This was our way of showing appreciation for a traditional Indian ceremony, called Arati. From my humble perspective, I learned about Arati kind of backwards. First, I learned about Arati at the ashram in BC, then, the spiritual name of Arati was given me at Salt Spring Island, although I have not used this name. Then again, I experienced Arati at the ashram in the UK. It was not until much later that I was able to experience an authentic Arati ceremony in INDIA.

For many years, our understanding of this (ceremony of waving lamps) was as a symbol of purification of the the 5 sense perceptions, and the acknowlegment of peace. We called it a Celebration of LIGHT.

Also 2010 – we started a YouTube Channel givepeaceachant108/ SandhyaMusic℗

2011 – Thanks to Tina in Whistler, Shyamdas visited us in Vancouver! He was here for skiing. I was delighted to see him again! He was so unique, a genuine character, and he remembered me from MVT. I eagerly helped set up a few concerts (Shyam loved the fabulous Tabla player) Tina and her Jivamukti YTT Grads had special celebration! So, I also began planting seeds for a possible GPaC / India – Bhakti Yoga Retreat with Shyamdas. He said yes, it was possible to bring our group! It was not meant to be though.

2012 – Kirtan continued, twice per month, anchored in Kits. We also helped with a number of outdoor gatherings that Summer, in the park. However, eventually the local yoga studio venue would be closed forever, demolished, along with The Ridge Theatre.
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2013 – Then, sadly and suddenly, Shyamdas passed away in 2013.

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GPaC BIO cont’d: (recording as Give Peace a Chant)

2014 – with the yoga studio venue demolished, I felt I had a song in my heart that was not finished, yet.

I tried to keep going with gatherings at a few other venues and we enjoyed many less popular, but more cozy home programs, picnics, etc.

In 2014, I embarked on a mini tour adventure that included singing in North Wales, Glasgow, Sterling, Edinburgh, and Paisley, Scotland. Looking back, this tour was my way to process the earlier passing of my beautiful Mother, that same Spring, 2014. She was Scottish by heritage, Canadian by birth.

I began my first dream recording project in the Summer of 2014, in Glasgow. For years I had wanted to try tracking Bagpipes for the (not-yet- named) ‘Kirtan Lila’, CD. So, that’s exactly what I did for that entire Summer. It was all about tracking Pipes and Harmonium, and I became very interested in sound recording, that Summer. I dedicate the ‘Kirtan Lila’ CD to my Mom, with love.

2015‘Kirtan Lila’ CD by Give Peace a Chant was finally released in June, 2015. This album has a lot of energy, and some amazing musicians / friends helped me see this first project off the ground. I learned a lot / processed ALOT during this project!

2016‘Divine Play’ CD (Instrumentals from Kirtan Lila) by Give Peace a Chant was released, January 2016, and kind of took me by surprise.

Instrumental soundtrack for ‘Yoga Moves for Every Body’ TV show, which aired in Vancouver and Calgary on Shaw community television, Channel 4 and Multicultural Channels. The TV show project can now be seen on YouTube as YogaMovesTV  and features yoga with ‘Divine Play’ soundtrack.

2017‘Gopal Lila’ EP by Give Peace a Chant, recorded at Park Sound Studio in North Vancouver was released on SandhyaRecords℗ as a new soundtrack project.

2018 – SandhyaMusic.com was established in 2018 representing SandhyaRecords

2019 – I started the year in India with a wonderful visit to see Bawa Shri Milan Goswami and Family!

When I returned, I went back to work teaching yoga at the community centre, but soon after, I had to take hiatus from music, due to bi-lateral hand surgeries, and some other unexpected health issues. Ugh groan, i know. I had already been slowing down… when along came the corona. I first heard about the virus on NYE.

2020 –  so, here we are, the “new age” of corona. My thoughts (at the moment) are with family and friends. I am still learning, but I’ve been experimenting with taking a social media break, and so far, I’m feeling much better for it. I do miss the positive connections, but I am taking time to clean house and ‘prepare the lamps’, staying positive.

2020 has not been an average year, so please let me know, by email, if you are interested in a Zoom chant together.

My hope is to set up a donation fund for a Seva donation project to benefit some friends in INDIA! If that interests you, or you have questions, contact Sandra.

Due to the time off, my wrists are finally getting better! It’s like the Universe knew… this (quaratine) time gave me time to improve on my recovery, and thankfully I’m playing, more easily again. It is unfortunate, but there was permanent damage and I can’t lift anything heavy, and no more downdogs, either! 2020 – I’m just grateful to be getting therapy!

If you are still reading this, OMG… thanks.
I’m trying to blog down memories. Sorry, the page is a work-in-progress.
The task was to clean up the website today, but I’m afraid it’s still looking like a total mess! Mailchimp remains a broken link, and now, I’ve accidentally dislocated the FB! Lol! I guess the it’s meant to be! Sun is out, too. Time for a balancing walk. Take care and stay safe.

My Personal Bio:
My name is Sandra Leigh (pronounced Lee). I first took interest in chanting whilst on a one year ashram residency in 1996 in the interior BC 🇨🇦 of all places, where I first learning about chanting from Swami Sivanada Radha’s Yasodhara Ashram. From there, I went on and learned about toning and sound healing in White Rock with Sandra Sammartino, and then, I went on… further on, to earn Dru Yoga, Meditation and Sound certificates from sound & mantra yoga trainings held in Canada, North Wales, UK, and India.

Otherwise, I am a self taught musician. I love to play… a little of many Instruments, but none super well. Kirtan music is usually simple and intuitive, though.

I visited India for the first time in 2008 for musical study retreat at the Varanasi Academy of Indian Classical Music located in Varanasi (Benares). Gratitude includes Pandit Shivnath Mishra & Deobrat Mishra of Varanasi, based on Benares Gahrana music tradition in Varanasi.

I was fortunate to continue studying Sanskrit in Vancouver at UBC with Professor, Thomas Hunter. Sanskrit as a practice only, though. It is much like music, Sanskrit requires daily practice!

In 2016, and then again in 2019, I had rare opportunity to go to India for Blessings with Pushtimargiya Acharya, Sri Milan Goswami, in Kota and there I experienced what is called “Brahma-Sambandha” means complete surrender to Bhagwan Shri Krishna’s non-discriminatory Seva. Jai Shri Krishna! I am still learning!

May All Being Be Peaceful

We honour that our events take place on traditional, unceded, occupied territories of the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish (Sḵwxwú7mesh), and Musqueam (Xwméthkwyiem) Nations.