Radhika Miller, a prolific musician and Integral Yogi, was inspired to write many of the songs on her new album, “Sanctuary,” to help soothe friends going through breast cancer treatments or loss. Though she studied classical piano as a child, Radhika took up the flute in college after reading some passages about the instrument in a Yoga book and also soon became a student of Swami Satchidananda. Her deepest wish: “May these songs bring a calm to all of us during these difficult times.”
In November, Cecilia Chailly (Italian harpist extraordinaire) asked if she could come record an album with me. Soon the Corona virus prevented her from leaving Italy, but I was already deep in composing mode. I hadn’t recorded since the loss of my musical partner of 25 years, Tony D’Anna. I started the album as a tribute to him, one of God’s gentlest souls. He left the earth too quickly for me to say farewell. His partner kept putting off a memorial so I finally decided to create an album that would express my love for his joyful, beautiful self. Tony was such a joy to work with that I feared I would never find another pianist/percussionist/improvisor/jazz man/ classical buff like him. The album would be a tribute to Tony, my way of getting closure and offering him love and gratitude for who he was.
When I called the Banquet Studios (where I’d recorded all my albums since 1983) they said they were closing in two weeks and moving to Oregon! I booked as many sessions as they had, met with their recommended pianist, hired Tony’s old housemate to play percussion in his honor, and away we went. Seven songs in one day! A creative streak I’ve never experienced! Racing against time before Covid shutdowns, these were the last musician pairings before all of us isolated. Amazingly, the CD plant was still open.
The album’s title, “Sanctuary,” rang through all the songs: sing praises, dance, and be still. This was to be the album’s theme: music to lift your spirit and deepen your longing soul. The album is filled with heartfelt piano solos, flute chorales, classical duos with flute and piano, trios with cello, piano and flute.
All of this was composed and recorded with the grace of my spiritual teacher, Swami Satchidananda (Gurudev), who nearly 40 years ago asked me to make a recording of peaceful, relaxing flute music. Music heals. It can create a deep sense of peace within. I’ve always heard Gurudev’s voice chanting when I play the very peaceful improvisations he so often asked me to perform.
This past year, several of my close friends were going through treatments for breast cancer. I’d play the piano pieces for them as they lay on the couch near my piano or in chapels and their tears would stream, good tears. Music can release fears, anxieties, tensions and lift our spirits. And then my dear friend and sangha member Kalyani Neuman’s illness took a turn, which speeded up the process as I wanted for her to hear it before she passed
I remember years ago Gurudev talking about the Happy Birthday song and he said, “Why don’t you write a Happy Death Day song?” One of the songs on the album, “Jubilate,” is that song; it’s celebratory, full of gratitude and joy. That was the magic of Gurudev. He entered a room and exuberance based in tranquility filled your being. Over the years, every day is filled with thanks for all the amazing teachings and blessings from our years with Sri Gurudev. Such a blessing, undoubtedly the biggest of our lives!