Bar xizam (Upward I rise)

SATB div. with s.a.t. soloists, a cappella

Winner of the Esoterics' Polyphonos competition, and toured nationally by the St Olaf Choir, this whirling, soaring vision of the soul after death features a swooping, bird-like soprano soloist. The piece moves from confinement (humming) to freedom in a glissandi effect inspired by the Shepard scale, an aural illusion of continuous ascending pitches, taking the audience with it on a journey toward the divine.

Khwajeh Hâfez-e Shirazi (14th c) was born in Shiraz, Persia (now Iran). He wrote nearly 400 lyric poems based on Sufi mysticism. This one, quite famous, is written on his tombstone.

Perusal Score: 

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Order Sheet Music
Catalog Number: 
Commissioned By: 
The Esoterics
Premiere Ensemble: 
The Esoterics, Washington, USA
Premiere Conductor: 
Eric Banks

2007 Winner of the The Esoterics' POLYPHONOS Young Composer Prize

See video

The Esoterics (Eric Banks), Washington
The St. Olaf Choir (Anton Armstrong), 2010 East Coast US Tour
Philadelphia Singers (David Hayes), Pennsylvania
Apeiron Vocal Ensemble (Daniel Pickens-Jones), New York
James I. O'Neill HS Select Choir (Christopher Reynolds Sheehan), New York
Metropolitan State College of Denver Chorale (Michael Kornelsen), Colorado
St. Martin's Chamber Choir (Tim Kreuger), Colorado
Missouri State Univ. Chorus (Guy Webb), Missouri


"superb..stunningly performed: the medieval Persian mixing with contemporary vocal devices in a whirling, soaring vision of the soul after death."- Tacoma News Tribune
"a marvelous work"- Anton Armstrong, St Olaf Choir
"A high point in the program..rhythmically and tonally free..The audience sat silently, transfixed by the beauty & creativity of the piece and granted the composer a prolonged ovation. At intermission she was besieged by admirers." - Worcester Telegram

Text Author or Source: 
Khwajeh Shams al-Din Muhammad Hâfez-e Shirazi (ca. 1320-1390)
Persian (English transliteration and pronunciation key provided)

Waiting, where is the harmony of your voice, so that, free from the desires of this life: I might rise?
I am a dove from paradise, but out of this worldly cage: I shall rise.
If, in your devotion, you call upon me to serve you, then I promise, from the desires of life and this world: I will rise.
O Lord, from the cloud of your grace, let your rain fall over and over,
Before this, from the midst of it all, like a handful of dust: Let me rise.
O rise up, with sweet gesture, and show me your stature: lofty, like the cypress, So that, free from the desires of this life: I may rise.
With dancing feet: I rise. With clapping hands: I rise.
On the day that I die, in the span of a single breath, grant me but a glimpse of you,
And then, like Hafez, free from the desires of life and this world: upward, I rise!
Translated from the Persian by Eric Banks and the composer, after renderings by Michael Boylan and H Wilberforce Clarke.