Conference of the Birds is a new oratorio based on Sufi mystic poet Attar’s seminal text about the journey of the soul as it seeks union with the Divine. The project was originally co-conceived by composer Fahad Siadat and soprano Anne Harley as part of her project Voices of the Pearl, and is being commissioned by Seattle’s professional chamber choir The Esoterics. The Music is composed by Fahad Siadat with a libretto by Sholeh Wolpé and directed/choreographed by André Megerdichian.
The epic poem utilizes a form found in medieval Islamic literature, the embedded narrative, whereby a series of smaller tales and parables nestle within a larger narrative that illustrates and distills the core tenets of the Sufi spiritual path and philosophy, a tradition often considered the mystical branch of Islam. Our hope for this piece is to create an entry point for westerners to share in this spiritual tradition in a format that shows, rather than tells.
Using birds as a metaphor for those on the Sufi path, the story follows the birds of the world who embark on a journey to find their king, the Simurgh, a divine, mythical creature. Traveling through The Seven Valleys, the birds follow the spiritual trials of the Sufi path as they journey to the Simurgh’s door. Each story cuts through the dogmatic teachings of religion exposing the broader pitfalls and yearnings of the spiritual journey and emphasizing the shared values between spiritual traditions.
The premiere musical performance of this oratorio is scheduled for the end of 2021 and will be performed by Seattle’s professional chorus The Esoterics, led by artistic director Eric Banks.
The fully staged production is schedule for the spring of 2022 at Scripps College performed in collaboration with The Contemporary Choral Collective of Los Angeles and HEX Vocal Ensemble, and featuring Dr. Anne Harley in the role of Hoopoe.
After the premiere performances, a score will be published by See-A-Dot Music Publishing, inc. and a professional recording made by the Voices of the Pearl label.
If you are interested in presenting this piece, please contact our producer Hilda Tourians for more information.