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Sahba Aminikia & Pınar Demiral: Nasrin's Dream
Kronos Quartet

Sahba Aminikia & Pınar Demiral: Nasrin's Dream

By Tim Diovanni - 5:00 AM on Apr 4, 2023 CDT

Verdigris Ensemble, Dallas’ innovative choir, is at it again.

Now in its sixth season, the choir has previously created and sold a choral NFT for $375,000 and given performances with themes ranging from the Big Bang to the Dust Bowl to the lives of Dallas residents. Its next project is a new kind of collaboration.

In partnership with the Crow Museum of Asian Art, Verdigris is premiering a new choral work, Shams, by Iranian-born composer Sahba Aminikia. The work explores the relationship between the mystic 13th-century Persian poet Rumi and his spiritual guide Shams Tabrizi.

Aminikia focuses on the love between the two men in his setting of Rumi’s poetry.

“The question comes, is this some sort of homosexual love?” Aminikia says. “But in fact, what we are targeting here is an idealistic higher love that leads to transformation. I don’t think it’s bounded or limited by gender or anything.”

Tracing the development of love over time, he says, are the eight sections of the 50-minute work. “Every section is dedicated to one stage of love. And I genuinely just describe what I felt in every stage of love.”

Shams also includes a string quartet, with performers from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and prerecorded sounds. The recordings are from recent women’s rights protests in Iran as well as U.S. protests in 2017 against the executive order that banned travel from mainly Muslim countries.

“It represents this chaotic scene of the world today that is all about differences,” Aminikia says. “But the remedy and the medium that people can talk through that, which is the lens of love, in my opinion, is the key to Rumi’s poetry.”

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By Kimberly Richard Published April 1, 2023 Updated on April 1, 2023 at 8:47 am

What can a modern audience learn about love from a 13th-century mystic? Verdigris Ensemble answers that question with SHAMS, a performance art experience about the transformative power of love.

After three years of collaboration with the Crow Museum of Asian Art, San Francisco-based Iranian composer Sahba Aminikia and New York-based Syrian artist Kevork Mourad, Verdigris Ensemble will premiere SHAMS April 14-16 at the Moody Performance Hall in the Dallas Arts District. The work incorporates the choral ensemble’s 16 voices, a string quartet, prerecorded sounds, visual projections and staging.

SHAMS is the most extensive collection of Rumi poetry set to music in its original Farsi. Rumi was a 13th-century Persian mystic who underwent a major transformation because of his relationship with his spiritual instructor, Shams Tabrizi.

“Rumi changes from this rigid character to a person of love and poetry,” Aminikia explained. Rumi’s influence transcends nationality, religion and cultural divides, with his poetry translated into many languages. His work is some of the most popular poetry in the United States.

“I think he’s always been relevant, and he will always be relevant in history,” Aminikia said. “What Rumi promotes is all about love and seeing through the lens of love.”

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