HARRISON COMMISSION FROM THE ORCHESTRA OF ST JOHN’S WITH POET SHUKRIA REZAEI

We are pleased to announce that Sadie Harrison has received a prestigious commission from The Orchestra of St. John’s to set a text by Shukria Rezaei, a young Afghan poet. My Hazara People will be performed a number of times in 2018 in various forms. The premiere (Charlotte Tetley (mezzo) and Graeme Bailey (piano) will take place as part of a panel discussion on Women Refugees at Somerville College, Oxford on 20 June with subsequent performances at the Tandem Festival (June 2018) with a setting for voice and string quintet, and another in Oxford by the Orchestra of St. John’s conducted by Cayenna Ponchione.

Sadie writes: 'My Hazara People is a setting of two texts, the title work by Shukria Rezaei, a young Afghan poet, and Lalai, lalai, bobe bacha shikar rafta (Baby’s father went hunting), a traditional Hazari lullaby. Although their characters are entirely different, the two poems share much in common. The importance of family and home, and beyond that connection with country and heritage are at the centre of both. Shukria’s poem is a direct expression of love and despair for Afghanistan with intimate moments of terror - a cup falling from her mother’s hand during an explosion, her aunt fainting - set against the suffering of Hazaras across the world. In the context of this devastating contemporary experience Lalai lalai is nostalgic and poignant - open gates, straw latches, a sleeping child. The tune of the lullaby is heard in two highly contrasted versions. For Shukria’s words it is dark and restrained, a repeating rhythm illustrating the Hazara’s seemingly never-ending pain, and for Lalai lalai it is bright and joyful with sounds of the hunt, a crackling fire and a gentle chorus as the child is rocked. A further thread runs through the music - a quotation of my favourite traditional Afghan Herati lullaby Allah Hu(God is great), reflecting Shukria’s reference to her people’s religious heritage. I have adapted the text at the end of Lalai Lalai to bring it into the Shukria’s world, a reminder that each innocent person caught up in conflict is a mother, a brother, a sister, a father, a daughter….kids like us.

'The work exists in two versions, for voice and piano and voice and strings. The former was premiered by Charlotte Tetley (mezzo-soprano) and Graeme Bailey (piano) on 20 June 2018 at Somerville College, Oxford as part of a panel discussion on women refugees. The work was commissioned by the Orchestra of St. Johns. I am indebted to Shukria for allowing to set her poem and to Cayenna Ponchione for inviting me to be part of this wonderful collaboration.'

Shukria Rezaei is from Afghanistan. She began writing English poems when she arrived in England 7 years ago. Her work predominately focuses on her people, the Hazaras of Afghanistan, and the politics surrounding her country. She has been featured on BBC Radio and Channel Four. She has mentored young students to write poems following her award of a Forward Foundation Studentship from Oxford Spires Academy. Shukria is currently studying Politics, Philosophy & Economics at Goldsmiths, University of London. © Shukria Rezaei 2018.

(15 May 2018)

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