From Behind the Caravan: Songs of Hâfez

Movements: 

I. we have come
II. suffer no grief
III. closer to the fire
IV. boatpeople
V. we have come (reprise)

Instrumentation/Voicing: 
SSAA, soloists, viola or cello, Persian hand drums (optional Oud)

A thrilling, visceral experience for chorus and audience alike, this 5-movement work, sung in Persian, requires multiple soloists (some with "belt" voice), viola or cello, and a drummer who can improvise on Persian hand percussion. Its "bookend" format (mvts 1 & 5 are nearly identical) has inspired creative programming by acclaimed women's choirs across the US and Canada (see below for list). The evocative 14th c. poetry is based on Sufi mysticism, an Islamic tradition of longing for the Beloved through the vivid imagery of fire, breath, whirling and dancing.

Perusal Score: 
Audio: 

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Order Sheet Music
Catalog Number: 
AB-049-02
Duration: 
13:00
Commissioned By: 
The Rose Ensemble
Premiere
Premiere Ensemble: 
The Rose Ensemble, 2009
Premiere Conductor: 
Jordan Sramek
Awards: 

Named a "Top 25 Contemporary Choral Gem" by conductors Kevin Meidl & Phillip A. Swan

See video
Performances: 

Cappella Clausura; Boston, Massachusetts (Amelia LeClair, conductor)
Festival of Choirs 2010; American International School of Muscat, Oman
Illinois State University Concert Choir (Karyl Carlson, conductor)
Lawrence University Women's Choir "Cantala," (Phillip Swan, conductor)
Pennsylvania Girlchoir with Lyric Fest (Mark Anderson, conductor)
Penthalia Singers; Ontario, Canada (Alice Malach, conductor)
The Rose Ensemble (Jordan Sramek, artistic director)
Seattle Choral Company (Fred Coleman, conductor)
San Francisco Girl's Chorus (Susan McMane, artistic director)
Singing City; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Jeffrey Brillhart, conductor)
Sound Circle; Boulder, Colorado (Sue Coffee, artistic director)
University of Manitoba Women's Choir (Elroy Friesen, conductor)
Michigan State University Women's Chamber Ensemble (Sandra Snow, conductor)
USC Thornton Oriana Choir (Lesley Leighton, conductor)
Vox Musica; Sacramento, California (Daniel Paulson, director)

Reviews: 

"new and fascinating. . . Both Betinis' and Whitacre's song cycles were written at the age of 26, and given their originality and appeal, both composers are ones whose many more works should be anticipated eagerly."
- Philippa Kiraly, The Gathering Note (Seattle, WA)

"Soloists Ashley Klassen and Cassandra Chugh were heart-stopping in Abbie Betinis' arresting From Behind the Caravan: Songs of Hâfez, inspired by 14th-century Persian poetry."
- Winnipeg Free Press (Winnipeg, MB)

Text
Text Author or Source: 
Hâfez-e Shirazi (14th c)
Language: 
Persian / Farsi
Translation: 

I. we have come

We, to this door, not seeking pride or glory... we have come.
For shelter from ill-fortune, here... we have come.

Traveling along love's journey, from the borders of nothingness,
Now into states of being, all this way... we have come.

O ship of grace, where is thy anchor of forbearance?
For in this ocean of generosity, immersed in sin... we have come.

Hâfez, throw off your woolen kherqe [Sufi cloak], for we,
from behind the caravan, with the fire of sighing "ah!"... we have come.

II. suffer no grief

Forsaken Joseph to Canaan shall return.
Suffer no grief.

Upon the thorny stalks of family grief, a rose shall bloom.
Suffer no grief...

If you desire the Way and plant your pilgrim foot in the desert,
Then if the mighty Arabian thorn make reproofs,
Suffer no grief...

Suffer no grief, suffer no grief, O heart.
Back to reason, comes this distraught head.
Suffer no grief...

O heart, despairing heart,
O! O! Suffer no grief...

There is no road that has no end.

III. closer to the fire

Last night I saw the angels beat at the door of the tavern,
The clay of Adam, they shaped and into the mould, they cast.

The churches war among themselves, forgive them;
When they could not see the truth, they beat the door of fable.

Fire, Fire! Oh! Oh!

Thanks be to God, for between me and Him, peace chanced,
The dancing Sufis cast the cup of thankfulness!

Fire, Fire! Oh! Oh!

IV. boatpeople

My heart falls from grasp. For God's sake come to my cry, O pious ones;
O the pain that Love's hidden mystery should be disclosed!

Arise, arise... O breeze...

To ease the pain of the world, live by these words:
With friends, give kindness; with enemies, courtesy.

We are the shipwrecked. O fair breeze, arise!
So that, again, we may behold the face of the Beloved.

Behold...

V. we have come (reprise)

We, to this door, not seeking pride or glory... we have come.
For shelter from ill-fortune, here... we have come.
sighing "ah!"...

We have come.