5 Spots Around the World to Enjoy Sacred Sounds

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If you find yourself looking for something simpler, more meditative or relaxing to do than the normal rounds of restaurants, bars, and shops on your next break, consider spending time listening to music. From the pure sounds of choirs, to the pulsing beat of Japanese drummers, or the haunting melodies of classical compositions, there are musical concerts, programs and events open to the public across the globe.

Instead of spending hours buying often pointless souvenirs or clothing on a shopping spree, you could uplift your mind listening to sacred sounds. Whether you choose to search out sombre chants, rhythmic drumbeats, or rousing exaltations, you're sure to find a sound to stir your soul. Read on for five top spots around the world where you should take some time to just stop and listen.

1. Harlem Gospel Choir in the United States

Based in Harlem in New York City, the world-famous Harlem Gospel Choir has been entertaining crowds for over two decades. The Choir performs contemporary gospel songs that have a solid element of jazz and blues, and the group's infectious energy has seen them become a big draw card not only in the United States, but also other countries across the globe. The Harlem Gospel Choir has performed in countries such as Italy, Ireland, Portugal, and Finland. They have also been joined by many of the biggest names in music, including U2's Bono, Andre Rieu, Pharrell Williams, Diana Ross, Sir Keith Richards, and The Gorillaz.

They have also entertained famous faces such as U.S. President Barack Obama and Pope John Paul II. Plan a visit to one of their regular Sunday performances at the BB King Blues Club in New York City and you're sure to have your breath taken away from their rich harmonies, inspiring lyrics, and powerful sound.

2. Taiko Drummers in Japan

In Japan, many events are held each year to celebrate the tradition of taiko drumming. The thundering sound of this particular Japanese drum has been used in the country for more than a thousand years to ward off evil spirits, celebrate festivals, or signal the beginning of war. According to legend, it was believed that the drum was once inhabited by gods, but today the instrument can be heard around the country at Shinto shrines and temples. An ideal spot to be immersed in the taiko tradition is on Sado Island. Here, an annual music festival called the Earth Celebration is held each August, and hosted by the world-renowned Kodo taiko group, based on the island. The festival features workshops and fringe performances, but the main attraction is the three large, nightly concerts that feature not just the Kodo musicians, but also guest artists from across the globe.

3. Monk's Choir in France

Whilst in France you can also take a trip to Saint Wandrille Abbey in Normandy, around two hours from the city. Here, an order of Benedictine monks is well-known for their spine-tingling Gregorian chants, sung within an Abbey that dates all the way back to the seventh century. Head to the monastery in the morning to both hear the ringing bells announce the start of Mass and the haunting sounds of the monks' congregated voices.

4. Fes Festival in Morocco

Each June in the ancient walled city of Fes in Morocco, visitors have the chance to take in not just their surroundings in this historic spot, but also an array of beautiful music. The Fes Festival of World Sacred Music is a 10-day celebration of the city's heritage and sees a myriad of musicians come together. From around the world Celts, Berbers, Sami folk singers, and Sufi musicians join forces to showcase spiritual traditions of a musical nature. Artists from a variety of faiths, such as Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim, perform together in this enlightened festival that began in 1994.

5. Bach Festival in Germany

The Bach Festival is held annually in June in Leipzig, Germany, where Johann Sebastian Bach lived for more than two decades before he died. The composer was the musical director at the city's St. Thomas Church (pictured top), and the Bach Festival is held each year to celebrate his work and ties to his adopted city. During the Festival, visitors can enjoy concerts and cultural events, some of which are free, that feature acclaimed musicians from around the world performing Bach's works. The event features the musician's pieces in both choral and orchestral form. Music lovers from all around the world flock to Leipzig each year for the festival.

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