I’ve been asked to sing tomorrow night for the birth of Baha’u’llah. I haven’t had much of a voice for the last few weeks as a result of catching a cold. Usually if my throat gets sore, then I’m out of commission for a month or more sometimes! That’s why I’m extra careful to avoid getting sick and even a little neurotic about it at times. Anyway, because of this cold I haven’t managed to practice singing much at all. When I did practice the song a few days ago, I lost my voice the next day! So I was back to no singing for the next few days.
Now, the day before the performance, I’m testing my voice so I’ve sung it a few times today – so far so good. The reason I’m pushing myself to go ahead and sing this piece tomorrow night is because it’s one of my favorite compositions. ‘The Prison of Tihran’ from the CD, Fire and Gold, was composed when I was studying the Ruhi series – Book 4 titled ‘Twin Manifestations’ which is mostly about the history and life of Baha’u’llah.
We were asked to memorize a particular long passage about the period of time when Baha’u’llah was imprisoned in a dungeon in Tihran where He received His first intimations of His revelation in that prison. It is such a moving passage which describes what took place and how He felt in those moments. The only way I felt I could remember the quotation was to set it to music. The melody came instantly for this piece which was quite miraculous considering there are long and difficult words within the quotation. It just seemed to come together so quickly and flow so wonderfully.
When recording the piece, we chose specific instruments like the santur to make the song sound Middle Eastern and to set the tone for where Baha’u’llah was imprisoned. As the piece progresses, the instruments keep building and the voices become more intense to bring out the emotion within the piece. Working together with Jarome Matthew and Farshid Samandari on the score was an exciting process and quite challenging to keep the balance and not to make the song sound too chaotic.
I was moved while singing the piece which surprised me as I have heard the song so many times yet the lyrics, melody and instrumentation still take me to another realm. The way in which Baha’u’llah describes those moments in prison are extremely touching especially knowing how much He suffered within that dungeon and how deplorably He was treated. Here are the words of Baha’u’llah:
‘During the days I lay in the prison of Tihran, though the galling weight of the chains and the stench-filled air allowed Me but little sleep, still in those infrequent moments of slumber I felt as if something flowed from the crown of My head over My breast, even as a mighty torrent that precipitateth itself upon the earth from the summit of a lofty mountain. Every limb of My body would, as a result, be set afire. At such moments My tongue recited what no man could bear to hear.’
Here is the music for ‘The Prison of Tihran’:
[audio:https://www.elikamahony.com/wp-content/uploads/The-Prison-of-Tihran-Elika-Mahony.mp3|titles=The Prison of Tihran]