This world premiere, a movement driven a cappela oratorio is based on Sufi mystic poet Attar’s seminal text about the journey of the soul as it seeks union with the Divine. Featuring an a capella choir and seven soloists acting narratively and orchestrally, accompanied by two dancers.
Return to Live Performances with Confidence
Learn more here.
ArtistsFahad Siadat (Composer, "Narrator") creates interdisciplinary storytelling works, folding together words, sound, and movement into ritualistic narratives. His work is described by the press as “Exceptional” (LA Times), “hypnotic” (Backstage) and having “a sophisticated harmonic vocabulary” (San Diego Story) with “characteristic vivaciousness” (Theatre Scene). He is an advocate of innovative and adventurous music, particularly for vocal ensembles, and approaches this advocacy as a performer, composer, conductor and entrepreneur. Fahad maintains a robust performing schedule, and has performed as soloist with such groups as LA’s groundbreaking opera company The Industry, and the Grammy Award-Winning PARTCH, and at events included SASSAS, the NEO Voice Festival, the Hear Now Festival, Tuesdays@MonkSpace, and the Masters in the Chapel Concert Series.
Fahad is the director of the Resonance Collective, a multifaceted organization which explores the intersections of artistic and spiritual practice, as well as the director of LA’s premiere new music vocal ensemble HEX. In 2019 he co-founded the NEO Voice Festival, a week-long celebration of new music for the voice, for which he is the Director of Composition.
Fahad is regularly commissioned to compose for concert music ensembles, dance companies, and theater troupes including: Cor Cantiamo, Theater Dybbuk, Rosanna Gamson/World Wide, Monmouth University, Seton Hill College, Northeastern State University, C4: The Choral Composer/Conductor Collective, The Contemporary Choral Collective of Los Angeles, Jacksonville Dance Theater, the California EAR Unit, New Century Players, and the TOCCATA Orchestra. His music has been performed in Europe, China, and across the United States.
He has conducted such ensembles as the Chaffey College Concert and Chamber Choirs, the CalArts Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, Columbia University Glee Club, C3LA, and C4: The Choral Composer Conductor Collective and has been assistant conductor of The Industry opera company and music director of Overtone Industries.
Fahad holds degrees from Vanderbilt University and the California Institute of the Arts, from which he received the Doctor of Musical Arts.
André Megerdichian (Director, Choreographer) performed professionally with such companies and choreographers as the Limón Dance Company, Janis Brenner and Dancers, The Mary Anthony Dance Theatre, Soundance Repertory Company, Reidel Dance Theatre, Daniel Charon, Seán Curran, and Dance Kaleidoscope. An Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina he has also served as a faculty member at the Duncan Center Conservatory in Prague Czech, Republic, The Limón Institute in New York City, and the University of Cincinnati College- Conservatory of Music, among others. In addition, he regularly teaches workshops and master classes throughout the United States, Europe, and China.
André’s work has been commissioned by numerous universities, festivals, and dance institutions throughout the United States. Internationally, he collaborated with Czech physical theatre director Petr Hudecek and co-choreographer/performer Jennifer Deckert, in the creation of the evening length duet, Kiss Romeo Bang! Juliet, which premiered at the Alta Theatre in Prague, Czech Republic, choreographed for the Opening Ceremony of the Corpus Christi Annual Commemorative Run presented by Prague Castle, and was commissioned by the Painted Lights Dance Project to create Moving Light, an evening length work premiered at the Statkino Theatre in Salzburg, Austria. His work is rooted in the humanistic, highly physical, explorations of modern dance traditions while exploring the diverse tensions and curiosities of today.
With composer Fahad Siadat, André co-founded The Resonance Collective - an interdisciplinary project-based company cross-pollinating the aesthetic, formalistic, creative, and performative aspects of multiple genres. Since then, they have created 3 evening length works; Saharava-a ritualized dance-opera, The Moon Has Made Us Brothers, and 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, in addition to works presented throughout the NYC area.
Raised in Beirut Lebanon, Athens Greece, and Geneva Switzerland, André holds a BFA from Butler University, and an MFA in Choreography from the California Institute of the Arts.
Sholeh Wolpé (Libretto) is an Iranian-American poet, playwright, and librettist. Named a “2020-2021 Cultural Trailblazer” by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, her literary work includes five collections of poetry, several plays, three books of translations, and three anthologies. Her most recent publications include Abacus of Loss: A Memoir in Verse (Univ. of Arkansas Press, March 2022), The Conference of the Birds (W.W. Norton & Co), Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad (Univ. of Arkansas Press), Cómo escribir una canción de amor (Olifante Ediciones de Poesia, Spain), and Keeping Time with Blue Hyacinths (University of Arkansas Press.)
Sholeh is the recipient of a 2014 PEN Heim, 2013 Midwest Book Award and 2010 Lois Roth Persian Translation prize, as well as artist fellowship and residencies in the U.S., Mexico, Spain, Australia and Switzerland. Sholeh’s plays have been finalists and semifinalists at Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, Centenary Stage Women Playwrights, Ojai Playwrights Festival, and Ashland New Plays Festival. Her play Let Me In is one of the Theaterfolks’ top ten plays requested by schools, and her play SHAME is featured in a new collection of plays from voices of Iranian heritage.
Sholeh has performed her literary work with world-renowned musicians at Quincy Jones Presents series at The Edye, The Broad Stage, Skirball Cultural Center Series, Los Angeles Aloud, The Broad Museum, LA County Museum of Art Ahmanson stage, Singapore Literature Festival, UNSW School of Arts and Media theater, and other venues.
Sholeh travels internationally as a performing poet, writer and public speaker. She has lived in Iran, Trinidad and the UK, and presently lives in Los Angeles and Barcelona. She is a Writer-in- Residence at University of California, Irvine.
More information at www.sholehwolpe.com
André Megerdichian, director
Fahad Siadat, composer
Sholeh Wolpé, librettist
Anne Harley, "Hoopoe"
Fahad Siadat, "Narrator"
Catalina Jackson-Urueña, Dancer
HEX Ensemble, soloists
C3LA: The Contemporary Choral Collective of Los Angeles, ensemble
Program NotesThe 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. It 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.
Rather than using instruments for additional symphonic and timbral color as is typical for an oratorio, the a cappella choir will both narratively act as the birds on the journey as well as musically function as the ‘orchestra’ to support arias and recitatives, utilizing a collection of alternative vocal techniques not typically found in choral music. The intent with this project is to engage further with the relationship between musical principles and the ecstatic experience within Sufi religious practice, especially the experience of deindividuation, a core aspect of Sufi practice. While Sufi music has its own structures and idioms, the specific musical aspects of Sufi compositions, like rhythmic cells or harmony structures, are not in and of themselves considered sacred nor to have mystical properties that bestow on the listener an ecstatic experience.