Farabi Persian Ensemble
Farabi Ensemble came together for a few years starting in 2016 after I met Ahmad Soufiani at an event at the Broomfield Grange I was co-hosting with my trio with Pete Jacobs and David Hinojosa.
We played for Musical Ambassadors of Peace fundraisers and community dances.
Nushin Farjadi was a patron of Persian arts and also founded the Persian Cultural Circle here in the Front Range of Colorado. Her son studied Tar with Ahmad Soufiani and she invited him to join us -- I remember that first time we played together -- it was wonderful to hear the tones of the instrument resonate through us and begin to understand the depth of Ahmad's expertise with Persian Dastgah.
Ahmad was very generous with his time -- I visited him on weekends, and he patiently taught me by ear several classical melodies, how to improvise in Persian rhythms, and we created a repertoire together that the clarinet could play well.
Farabi Ensemble played for some wonderful community events including house concerts, dance workshops, and shared a concert with visiting Persian musicians Hamid Saiedi, santur, and Mehrdad Arabi at the lovely Althea Center.
I had reached out and hired Shahrzad Khorsandi to come to Colorado for a series of workshops for the amateur dancers of the Persian Cultural Circle and the Denver Waldorf School. She also connected with Denver's Bella Diva Dance Studio founder Kaitlin Brozna-Smith. I also connected her with Dr. Morelli at Denver University, a specialist in Khattak dance, and they found they had grown up near each other, had almost identical ethnography libraries, and I hope forged a friendship!
Khorsandi worked with Farabi via Telegram App calls I set up before her Denver visit -- we'd have her join us for Thursday night rehearsals via phone. This was pre-pandemic! We would play the evolving composition until we got the length of sections, tempo, and rhythms set, then record it for her and send the files so she could set the choreography. Khorsandi learned a lot from Ahmad Soufiani in the process, and she became a perennial favorite clinician here in Colorado through this collaboration. Khorsandi's protege Delsie Khadem Ghaeini and the Persian Cultural Circle, helped arrange amateur classes at the lovely Vital Yoga studio in a hip area of Denver. Farabi Ensemble donated our time to play for these events. I arranged sound equipment and Farabi Ensemble to attend the workshop concert. Many of the solo pieces for Khadem Ghaeini and Khorsandi were simply stunning!
We also had a wonderful concert evening in the Mercury Cafe Ballroom which featured Bella Diva dancers performing Khorsandi's workshop choreographies to live music by Farabi, plus solo performances by Khadem Ghaeini and Khorsandi, culminating with a bit of open dance music for all! This iteration of the Farabi ensemble included Zara Sadeghi and Sina Gojaru on Persian frame drum Daf, Frankie Peyman on Tombak, myself on clarinet and our Maestro, Ahmad Soufiani. I hired the incomparable sound engineer Shane Hotle and videographer Adam Reynolds.
I had always wanted to put together a collaboration of Persian dance and Western Classical Ballet...
Leading up to creating the actual Ballet Score and recording it with Farabi was a whole other process..
I applied for and received a Grant from the City of Denver's Department of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, which also required logging volunteer hours, budget, technical writing, hiring a professional videographer, but garnered the project some well deserved prestige.
I learned about Zikr Dance Company and David Taylor through Jesse Manno, who had created several scores for Taylor's previous projects. Farabi Ensemble ended up creating a score based on Ahmad Soufiani's arrangement of Rumi's Masvani poem, incorporating popular melodies that featured clarinet, as well as J. Mansoori's santur and Kambiz Yasanfar's tasty tombak playing. Ahmad also sang on the score -- adjusting his vocal range to the santur's tuning.
I hired Jesse Manno to record the quartet and gave each artist a CD copy of the track. I also arranged KGUN interviews, helped along greatly by Persian American KGNU programmer, Sarah Shirazi. She interviewed me, David Taylor, Ahmad Soufiani and Khorsandi several times, as well as featured Farabi trio and Ahmad Soufiani to be featured live on Musica Mundi show. I hired Diana Odem to attend a David Taylor Zikr Dance Cleo Parker Robinson Theater dress rehearsal to capture some of the beautiful costumes with good lighting created by Colorado Ballet Costume Department Shirin Lankarani. Members of the Persian Cultural Circle helped hand paint Ms. Lankarani's beautiful costumes.
I also arranged for members of the Kurdish Iranian community to provide bilingual presentations about the program at Zikr performances.
In the end, Ahmad Soufiani's beautiful musical arrangement, tar playing and vocals on Atash, or "Fire" was very popular on David Taylor's Zikr Dance Company's tour and was seen by hundreds of Ballet audience members in over 12 cities.
The Persian audience members were usually taken to tears by the beauty of the collaboration and I learned a lot producing this this beautiful and fascinating piece of music for movement.