The evolution of a Rose
From a bell ringer’s aunt, to a Kurdish prisoner in Turkey
I first heard of this poem through our local bell ringer, Peter Lomax, who wrote, in 1998:
“I have an auntie who became interested in the plight of Kurdish prisoners through a Quaker friend. She joined the Befrienders and was given the name of a young man with whom to correspond.
Auntie Theo, in common with most of us, knew no Turkish so she wrote to her new friend in English, and when he replied she had to send the letter to the Society of Friends for translation.
My Auntie Theo is an impatient lady and became frustrated by the long delays so she decided to learn Turkish. She bought a dictionary and made time each day to study the language. It wasn't long before she was able to understand fragments of the letter.
Auntie Theo cares very deeply for these young men who are in prison simply because they are Kurds (not a fashionable race to belong to in modern Turkey). They are not murderers or terrorists, they were teenagers when they last tasted freedom.
Iskan writes poetry and sent a poem to Auntie Theo, which she struggled to translate. I thought it was beautiful and mentioned it to David Solomons (countertenor in our choir and music composer). David took the poem to a Turkish speaking friend to check the translation, then scored it.
Finally he recorded it and very good it is. Auntie Theo sent a copy of the score to Iskan and he has not yet replied; he has probably not received it. On the other hand, Iskan might be dead; quite a possibility, but Auntie Theo will continue to write to him until she knows and is certain.”
There is a rose in my garden
A crimson rose opening in my heart
Rosy cheeks blossoming like a young pomegranate plant
which loves the earth like spring
like a rising sun in the sky
both weep both love from within
like a rising a rising moon in the night
like summer rain watering my rose garden
as if it were a life.
It is you in my dreams at night
every moment I see you in my mind..
You are running through my soul
like blood runs through my veins with joy!
Auntie Theo has since died and Iskan has disappeared: possibly released from prison and living in Germany, or possibly not - we do not know.
(This information is also posted on the akakurdistan page along with one of the many recordings, so maybe we will find out eventually. )
I therefore set this English version of the poem in various versions, starting with alto and guitar (in A minor) - published by Da Capo Music Ltd.
I then and proceeded through versions with piano accompaniment and eventually string accompaniment.
The CD “Songs of Solomons” includes a beautiful rendition of the alto and piano version performed in 2001 by Stephen Taylor and Jonathan Leonard. Mark Crayton (alto) and James Janssen (piano) also performed it beautifully in 2007 - see video. An excellent performance of the bass and piano version was given by Mark Rawlinson and Peter Lawson in 2002. (see below for mp3)
Transpositions of these versions were also made for tenor voice (in E minor and D minor) at the suggestion of David Barclay who has performed them on several occasions.
The saxophone and bass clarinet versions
Then the tune which this poem had created in my mind took flight and became a fully formed fantasia for saxophone and strings, following a request from the bass-saxophonist Andreas van Zoelen.
The tune is now extended into a whole new level.
The Rose Fantasia was first performed in Holland in 2002 and, in the same year, was published by Musik Fabrik in versions for string accompaniment and piano accompaniment and for various sizes of saxophone and also bass clarinet.
Andreas’ performance was brilliant, but for technical reasons I have not been able to put that recording online.
However, a baritone saxophone player, John Ketterer of New Jersey College did an excellent and very moving performance of the higher setting of Rose Fantasia with his fellow music students in March 2010, which can be heard here (mp3).