In the Gardens of Shushan

Program Notes:

Of this piece, Toronto composer Rose writes “It is written in the Book of Esther, that King Ahasuerus presided over a great feast at the palace of Shushan. It was on the 7th day, after much revelry and wine it is assumed, that he called upon the chamberlains to fetch his Queen, Vashti, from the royal gardens to appear before him and his guests to “display her beauty” (often translated and interpreted to mean “appear without clothing”). Vashti refused. Fearful that her actions would around the disobedience of other women toward their husbands (and upon suffering his own royal embarrassment) the King had Vashti exiled or possible even executed. Today, her name stands for many as a symbol of resistance to gender tyranny and exploitation.

Conductor Notes:

This excellent piece feels somewhat unique in our recent repertoire in that it has an almost symphonic feel. The SSAA choral parts only tell half the story; the piano accompaniment tells as much through a slow and evocative introduction and a variety of mood and tempo changes. Sheldon brought this piece to our 2009 Reading Session of New Compositions, and the choir and I immediately responded to its lush harmonic language and intense dramatic sense. Overall, there is a mysterious quality reminiscent of Holst’s explorations of Eastern cultures. Its chromatic lines in all parts will challenge your choir’s ability to master intervals. If you have singers with good vocal technique, you will find plenty of opportunities to be expressive and dramatic in this piece that changes frequently from unison or octaves to 4-part texture, and that has a dynamic range as wide as you care to make it.


This lists any discs, concerts or collections where this piece is included.





Poet: Marjorie Lowry Christie Pickthall

Be pitiful ! Her lips have touched this cool Clear stream that sets the long green leaves astir. The very doves that dream beside the pool Sang their soft notes to her. For her these doors that claim the amorous south, Bound in red bronze and stayed with cedar-wood. And here the bees sought honey from her mouth, So like a flower she stood. For her the globed pomegranates grew, and all Sweet savoury fruits rose perfect from their flower. Here has her soul known silence and the fall Of each enchanted hour. Under her feet all beauty was laid low, In her deep eyes all beauty was made clear. When the king called her through the evening glow, ‘O Vashti, I am here !’ Still the sweet wells return to me her face, Still her lost name on every wind is blown. The shadows and the silence of this place Are hers alone.