Bliss of Being

Renowned new age pianist Richard Shulman and four of his musician friends (adding cello, flutes, wordless vocals and crystal bowls) have banded together as The Pure Heart Ensemble and created an acoustic recording, Bliss of Being, that not only celebrates the feeling of bliss, but also the journey getting there.

“To me,” states Shulman, “the ‘Bliss of Being’ is to be so present in the moment that all is experienced as Divine. Bliss is a state of calmness, peace, happiness, health and spirituality, and has a feeling of Life, supercharged. The whole album is a journey towards bliss beginning with relaxation and healing and moving through feelings of beauty, wonder, joy and presence. Although bliss as an end result is the ultimate destination, the journey is of great importance because it represents learning, healing and individual growth along the way. The journey not only gets us there, allows us to arrive, but also prepares us to recognize, utilize and enjoy bliss.”

On Bliss of Being, Shulman is joined by cellist Adriana Contino, flutist Kate Steinbeck, vocalist Dielle Ciesco and crystal bowl player Bob Hinkle. Their individual journeys, and the experience of creating this recording as part of a group, imbued the music with a special emotional resonance. “Each of us had to step through the door of trust into that place of pure heart where the music flows in Divine cadence,” explains Shulman. “As we passed through that spiritual and emotional passageway, to a place of love and bliss, we surrendered our personal selves, opened our hearts to this ecstatic music flowing through us, and allowed the music to express a level of higher consciousness.”

Bliss of Being, on the RichHeart Music label, is available at richheartmusic(dot)com as well as online sales sites including CDbaby, Amazon, iTunes, Rhapsody, eMusic among others.

Richard Shulman has become one of the leading musicians in the new age genre over the past few decades. But Shulman also was trained in the classical and jazz fields, and regularly performs and records original jazz with his trio. Shulman has 23 albums under his own name as well as more than two-dozen other recordings for which he has provided compositions, performances or production. He studied at the prestigious Eastman School of Music, got his Masters Degree in musical composition from State University of New York at Buffalo, and was a composer-performer for a decade with Theatre of the Heart -- a New York City-based performance group working to bring higher consciousness and environmental awareness to audiences. Although Shulman’s recordings are varied, he is especially known for creating music for healing, alignment and meditation including A Higher Dimension, Light Music, First Rites, Light from Assisi, Keeper of the Holy Grail, Music of Peace and 11:11 Piano Meditations for Awakening. Shulman also has devoted considerable energy to a special project, Camelot Reawakened: A Vision Fulfilled which includes a CD, a DVD-video and a theatrical musical (“A Dream of Camelot”).

Cellist Adriana Contino completed her studies at Indiana University and became the youngest member of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (under Andre Previn). She went to New York City and founded the Bach Chamber Soloists, and performed with the New York Chamber Orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the New York New Music Ensemble, the jazz group String Fever, and Richard Shulman (they released a duet album, New Beginnings, in 2003). Contino went to Germany and for more than two decades served as professor of cello, baroque cello and chamber music at the Hochschule fuer Musik, and while there also was the principal cellist of the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra (their first female principal). She currently teaches at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University.

An international performer, teacher and music producer, flutist Kate Steinbeck KateSteinbeck(dot)com is the founder and director of Pan Harmonia pan-harmonia(dot)org, a professional collective based in Asheville NC, which produces world-class classical and ethnic-world-fusion music. Kate studied with William Hebert at Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio. As a Fulbright scholar, she earned a First Prize in chamber music from the Belgium Royal Conservatory in Liege and later performed and taught music in Germany for several years. She holds a Master’s Degree from the San Francisco Conservatory where she studied with Tim Day. Kate has produced two CDs, Light in the Corner and Luminescence and plays exclusively on a modern wooden flute manufactured by her husband, Chris Abell.

Vocalist Dielle Ciesco specializes in the transformational power of the voice to heal and connect us with our own Divinity. She says, “I am passionate about every voice, be it the one we use everyday to communicate, the ones we hear inside our heads, the silent voice of wisdom, voices raised in song, or the ones that call us to awaken.” She was a featured vocalist with Visionary Music (creators of DNA Activation Music) on their TLC Series. Ciesco also is the author of the book The Unknown Mother: A Magical Walk with the Goddess of Sound. More information is available at DielloCiesco(dot)com.

Crystal-bowl performer Bob Hinkle has worn many hats during his lengthy musical career -- singer, songwriter, poet, recording artist, composer/lyricist, corporate executive, consultant, artist manager, executive producer and record label founder-president. He recorded numerous albums with his trio, The Good Earth, and had a solo album, Ollie Mogus. He performed with Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. As a manager he worked with The J. Geils Band, Etta James, Harry Chapin, Patti Lupone, Kenny Rogers and many others. He founded both The Children’s Group (Classical Kids music) and Zoom Express (children and family entertainment such as Early Ears).

These five musicians came together to form The Pure Heart Ensemble and record the Bliss of Being CD (and perform select concerts). Shulman began the musical adventure by composing the lead-off track, “The Bliss of Healing,” and arranging the nearly 11-and-a-half-minute piece to accommodate the other musicians. The rest of the music initially derived from Shulman and Contino improvisations (they have a strong rapport from having worked together previously). “I took three of our shorter improvs -- ‘Remembering the Goal,’ ‘Remembering the Bliss’ and ‘When We Go Home We Go Together’ -- and arranged parts for flute and/or voice turning these pieces into more structured compositions,” explains Shulman. “However, the other eight tunes are group improvisations straight from our hearts.”

The second piece on the album, “Beginning the Journey,” starts very slow and appropriately searches for a direction before finding its way. There are longer tunes such as the more than nine-minute “Heading Home” and the 11-minute “Divine Connection” (the one piece with a synth drone in the background), but these are balanced by several in the two-minute range including the only solo-piano piece, “Resting in God.” The album ends with the lovely piano-cello duet “Loving All” and the beautifully-melodic “When We Go Home We Go Together” (which Shulman says, “helps to ground our energies in a sweet happiness.”).

“When I began the album,” explains Shulman, “I had in mind music that could help people relax and heal, and after starting to write the first track, I found that this music was powerfully helping me come to a state of release and gratitude. There is an experience I have had many times where I bring my awareness in a compassionate, loving and non-judgemental way into an area of pain or density in my body. I find that in the acceptance of the situation, a grace may come in which presence and love allow the opening of communication with the tension or pain which can then become a communion with Life or God. The purpose of this music was to create a musical soundtrack in which this process could be awakened. For me, the bliss of healing is that visceral experience of moving from pain to bliss as tension melts in the presence of Agape or Divine Love. During the recording, as each of us surrendered our limitations and found our bliss, it made it possible to create this music, and we hope that translates into a healing process and natural inner alignment for the listener as well.”