Bijan and ManijehThe University Singers student chorus will join the Windsor Symphony Orchestra in performance of a work that draws on the Persian legend of Bijan and Manijeh.

Student chorus to sing out with orchestra

For the first time in three years, the University Singers student chorus will perform in person with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra in two performances this weekend at the Capitol Theatre.

University Singers include students from across the University who take this ensemble course for credit. The course focuses on the performance of various styles from all periods. When combined with the WSO Chorus, an auditioned volunteer choral ensemble, they become a massed choir of more than 80 voices under the direction of Bruce Kotowich, acting director of the School of Creative Arts.

The concert is titled “World Connections through Music” and promises extraordinary music created under difficult circumstances. The program features the world premiere of a work by Iranian composer Farhad Poupel, as well as Symphony No. 9 by Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich.

Pianist Jeffrey Biegel, University Singers, WSO Chorus, and the Windsor Symphony Orchestra join forces to perform “The Legend of Bijan and Manijeh,” drawn from the long poem Shahnameh. The national epic of Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, it was written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi in the 10th century and consists of more than 50,000 two-line verses.

The Legend of Bijan and Manijeh is about two lovers from hostile countries, Persia and Turan, telling of Bijan’s suffering and Manijeh’s constancy. Like other stories in the Shahnameh, it depicts the power of women in pre-Islamic Persian society, a power now manifesting in Iran.

“This world premiere for piano, chorus, and orchestra brings to life the ancient Persian love story of a strong woman and her prince,” says WSO music director Robert Franz. “You don’t want to miss this one!”

Poupel, who makes his home in the United Kingdom, will be in Windsor this week attending the rehearsals and performances.

He describes the structure of his composition as consisting of the battle between dark and light.

“In the end, we have a climax of the whole work in a very delicate, tranquil, and bitter-sweet ending since loving someone is not necessarily all happiness, but sadness and happiness at the same time,” Poupel says.

Performances of “World Connections through Music” are 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20, at the Capitol Theatre. Tickets are available online or by calling the box office at 519-973-1238, ext. 2.

Watch a video of Franz in conversation with Poupel and Biegel: