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2015 New Orleans Sacred Music Festival 

The annual fest at the Healing Center takes place March 14

Buddhist monks, gospel and Jewish cantorial singers are among the performers at the annual New Orleans Sacred Music Festival at the New Orleans Healing Center Saturday. The event features music and rituals from an array of cultures and faiths, including Tibetan Buddhist chanting and dancing, a sage blessing and a Voodoo ceremony. Festival director Sallie Ann Glassman says the purpose of the festival is to promote peace and understanding through sacred music.

  "One of the things that I think is misleading to people is when you hear 'sacred,' you're thinking of being stuck in church and it's going to be really boring and strict, but it's not," Glassman says.

  This year Glassman will dedicate the International Shrine of Marie Laveau in the main hall of the Healing Center. A papier-mache sculpture of Laveau, created by float-builder Ricky Pustanio, is the centerpiece of the shrine. Pustanio gave the sculpture to Glassman to use in St. John's Eve ceremonies, and it soon became a point of pilgrimage.

  "People just started spontaneously bringing flowers and offerings and candles, and people would be out there praying to the statue," Glassman says. "It just seemed like she was changing the guard or creating a second venue where people could continue to have access to it."

  Also new to the festival is an interfaith peace walk from St. Roch cemeteries to kick off the festival. The Icons for Peace, a group of youth working against gang violence, will lead the walk.

The four-year-old festival continues to evolve its programming and grow in size.

  "The first year it was a two-day festival [and] I think over the whole two days we may have drawn 150 people," Glassman says. "It was fabulous but people didn't know about it. ... Every year it has grown dramatically. ... It's so beautiful for building bridges because all of these different faith communities have come in for what they know and in the process have learned about stuff they didn't know about."

  Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. —

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