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


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:

I am very pleased to announce that
this piece has won the
composition competition
sponsored by the
Uncommon Music Festival,
Sitka, Alaska!

You may hear their vocal quartet
performance at left

...and you may obtain both
the full choral (SATB) score,
or the Vocal Quartet version

"Whether in sun above, or in the dark below, you will be safe with me. Go to sleep.
Dream of the mountains high, dream of the rivers deep, dream of the oceans wide, Go to sleep.
We'll climb the mountains high, ford all the rivers deep, sail all the oceans wide. Go to sleep."

Those words 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.
*Soprano, director, choreographer, my wife and inspiration!


     The remaining words (heard near the beginning and at the end) 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 (as his name would suggest - and there are patriotic references to that country in his poems), or Syrian, I do not know. I have chosen a single line from his "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 recently 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 dislike intolerance in any form, but regardless of my personal feelings I find this line about Jesus to be very moving. A wise and loving teacher who has won the trust of 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."

     This work exists in both a full choral version (with a few divisis) and in a version for vocal quartet. Click on the "Listen" button above to hear the vocal quartet version as performed at the Uncommon Music Festival in Sitka, Alaska in August of 2019.

     You may also peruse the opening pages of the full choral score by clicking on the Download button. To obtain complete scores please contact Performer's Edition.

     And do let me know if you decide to perform it - send me the details as to date and location so that I can keep my Performances page up-to-date (hardly anyone ever does, but I keep asking).