I am extremely honored to announce two world premieres this weekend!
"Although the Wind," with text by Izumi Shikibu, translated by Jane Hirshfield
Commissioned by the Bowling Green State University Women's Chorus, Sandra Stegman, director
University Women's Chorus Concert, Sunday, April 17, 3:00 PM, Kobacker Hall, Moore Musical Arts Center, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio
"O My Friends What Can You Tell Me Of Love," with text by Mirabai, translated by Jane Hirshfield
One Voice Mixed Chorus, Kelli Heckman, director, Queer Thunder with Mu Daiko, Saturday, April 16, 7:00 PM or Sunday, April 17, 3:00 PM, Hopkins High School, Hopkins, Minnesota
These two pieces are very near and dear to my heart for several reasons. Most notably, I had been wanting to set texts from fascinating, lesser known (in the US) women poets. Izumi Shikibu lived in Japan at the end of the 10th through the beginning of the 11th centuries, and Mirabi during the 16th century in India. As an added bonus, the poems, due to their intense nature, gave me a chance to explore some new compositional territory.
Both poets are revered in their home countries. Izumi Shikibu is "considered the greatest woman poet of Japanese literature" and Mirabai "the most famous of all the northern Indian women bhakti poets." In fact, Mira's "poems are [still] sung throughout India today."
Yet the texts and the settings could not be more different. While Although the Wind is reserved and sparse with lush, sparkling, harmonies, O My Friends alternates between a fast moving dance and ancient chant. Although the Wind speaks of moonlight leaking through a ruined house. O My Friends talks of the strangeness of sacred love and the lengths to which Mira would go for her devotion.
And yet, they are the same. As if Hirshfield, in the forward to Women in Praise of the Sacred, were speaking specifically of Izumi Shikibu and Mirabai, she says, "I like to imagine the kind of conversation that might take place among the women included in this book, could they meet. Despite the varying expressions and frames of their understanding - the full moon of enlightenment discovered within a woman's own house or heart, or the divine presence experienced as mystical Husband and Lover, whether Krishna or Christ...I believe that each one might recognize in others something she knew to be close in her own life."
Izumi Shikibu and Marabai have been revered throught the centuries because they speak to a strength of spirit and a love of life that resonates within all of us. I can't wait for you to hear these songs, either in person or as recordings. I know they will enter your heart as they have mine.