Ruri, Ruri
Armenian Lullaby for SATB a cappella (2016)
by Ron Hannah (words by Andrea Mellis and Ajan Syrian)

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Duration: about 4 minutes

     Here is a little piece with many levels of meaning, at least for me.

     On the surface it is a simple lullaby. The words: "Dream of the mountains high, Dream of the rivers deep, Dream of the oceans wide, Go to sleep", are Andrea's since I could not find a translation of the original Armenian song. She wrote these lines for our theatre project, "The Illuminator", based on the life of St. Gregory of Armenia, for which I researched and transcribed several folksongs. I fell in love with this simple tune, in 5/4 time, and so repetitive that it should not work as a composition, yet it does somehow. It shares this quality with the Ukranian "Carol of the Bells" - another piece that shouldn't work, but does. Oh, and I used it again in the second movement of my Piano Trio #2.

  



     The remaining words are by Ajan Syrian, a poet about whom I have been able to find little. He appears to have been an expatriate rug seller in New York, and his poetry is found in some anthologies dating from WWI times, but whether he was Armenian (there are patriotic references to that country in his poems), or Syrian, I do not know. I have chosen a single line from "Syrian Mother's Lullaby" for this piece: "Upon these golden Syrian sands, Jesus walked holding children's hands". Ajan appears to be quite chauvinistically Christian in some of his works, and this counts against him in my view, but it must be remembered that he wrote during a time of great persecution of the Armenian people. We have just observed the centenary of the terrible actions carried out against them by the Young Turks in 1915.

     The current anti-Islam scaremongering that is going on is nothing new, and Ajan probably would have approved it, sad to say. I think intolerance of any sort just promotes hatred and violence, as in the current battle between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the territory of Nagorno Karabakh, yet I find this line about Jesus to be very moving. A wise and loving teacher caring for children is a beautiful idea, whatever culture it comes from. Conductors, do feel free to change the name "Jesus" to any other other compassionate teacher, be it Mohammed or Buddha or whoever. This is my personal protest, and I know a little whereof I speak, having experienced the warmth and hospitality of both Muslim and Buddhist households, and having seen Muslim persons, upon shaking my hand, look down and shyly whisper, "I am not a terrorist."

     Click on the "Listen" button above to hear a computer-generated version. I used a cello sound for the bass voice because the computer's choral "bass" sound is so ugly, but the rest is fairly convincing and at least the notes are there. Feel free also to download the score, but please, please, don't pass on paper copies to others. Rather, give them my website URL. And do let me know if you perform it - send me the details as to date and location so that I can keep my Performances page up-to-date (no-one ever has, but I keep asking). The score may also be obtained through the Canadian Music Centre.


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