Birdsong

This 45 minute work is written for satb, soloists from the choir and tar (Iranian precursor to the guitar family).  The texts are from Coleman Barks’ book Birdsong -  translations/adaptations of Rumi poetry.  When I first read these poems they leapt off the pages some of them with fully formed music and others with fragments of music that stuck in my ear.  I was immediately transfixed by these spiritual blessings which came to me at a time of my life when I most needed them.

In 2003 I wrote five a capella sections and in 2006 the Vancouver Chamber Choir commissioned me to write the remaining pieces – there may be more to come in the future too – and they premiered Birdsong at the Chan Center with the virtuoso tar player/singer Amir Koushkani.  In 2012 musica intima and Ali Razmi gave three stellar performances to full houses.  Schirmer/Hal Leonard publishes the last piece of the set Your Fragrance which has been performed by many choirs in North America.

Mystical Sufi poets have many ways of naming what we may call God or the Great Spirit: The Beloved, you, the universal soul, your lover… and the poems also use many words to describe one’s relationship with God/The Beloved.  Rumi’s poetry speaks of transformation – the core of spiritual practice: through prayer to be used by the universal soul, to the emptying of self and to enlightenment.

This string of Jelaluddin Rumi’s short quatrains tells the story of a day in the life of a human being.  It begins in the early morning, before awakening, with dreams of magical music playing and memories of the last evening, a message to fully experience love and a prayer to the universal soul to ‘please use me.’  Awakening, inspired by birds singing and falling through the sky, a vision of the path to follow, of love and honouring the mother, afternoon music making, with prayer and philosophy spoken by the elder, working the soil, hearing the Universal Soul whispering the nightbird’s song and being moved by these blessings.  Dancing with wild abandon and joy, giving ones’ soul into the great dance of life and, through all the day, feeling, hearing, seeing and smelling the fragrance of the beloved who lifts us to the stars and back to earth exhausted, to sleep and dream again.

The 12th century sacred Sufi texts of Rumi give inspiration, guidance and solace to Farsi speaking peoples throughout the world and Coleman Bark’s adaptations bring this guidance and solace to the English speaking world with passion, grace and humour.

Sung in English and Farsi

title performers performable without tar? publisher see buy
1 solo tar introduction tar n/a edhendersonmusic see buy
2 When I remember – A road baritone solo, satb, tar yes edhendersonmusic see buy
3 Birdsong – The way of love soprano solo, satb yes edhendersonmusic see buy
4 in bade – The breeze – The morning – sobh hasto baritone solo, satb, tar – tar player also sings in Farsi n/a edhendersonmusic see buy
5 Love is the way tenor solo, satb, yes edhendersonmusic see buy
6 Drumsound rises on the air satb, tar n/a edhendersonmusic see buy
7 With your lips not here alto solo, satb, tar n/a edhendersonmusic see buy
8 This is how – Ey rooz – Daylight tenor, soprano solos, satb yes edhendersonmusic see buy
9 A lightwind coming downhill satb yes edhendersonmusic see buy
10 Love perfected – We search this world soprano solo, satb, tar n/a edhendersonmusic see buy
11 Around and around – When you come back tenor solo, satb, tar n/a edhendersonmusic see buy
12 Your fragrance soprano solo, satb, tar yes Schirmer/Hal Leonard see buy