Pejman Akbarzadeh Official Website
Persian Choral Music : an Introduction


pejman.akbarzadeh [at] gmail .com 

Persian choral music in general is reffered to works by Persian (Iranian) composers for choir or works which have been written for choir based on Persian music/poetry.

Western "Choir" (as an aspect of Western art music) was introduced to the Persians in early 20th century; when Tehran Conservatory created a choir of the students. They later cooperated with Tehran Symphony Orchestra as well but the repertoire was totally Western classical works. 

1940s : Rubik Gregorian Arrangements

AY SAR KOTAL (Persian Folk Song) - Arrangement for Choir: R. Gregorian

It seems Rubik (Ruben) Gregorian (1915 - 1991) should be called the pioneer composer to create "Persian Choral Music".

Gregorian was a gifted violinisted and composer who was the director of Tehran Conservatory of Music and Tehran Symphony Orchestra for few years. In 1951 he moved to the United States and continued his works mainly at the Boston Conservatory of Music.

In early 1940s Gregorian collected tens of folk songs from various regions of Persia (Iran) and arranged them for choir and voice and piano. His books in two volumes were published in Tehran in 1948. He has tried to be quite faithful to the original songs and do not change their authenic atmosphere. Since that time in a lot of choral concerts in Persia, Gregorian's arrangements of folk songs have been performed. 

In most of Gregorian's arrangements, we  hear the song's melody with chords which are performed by SATB choir. Gregorian has tried to be quite faithful to the original melodies with no intention of changing or developing any part.

According to Golnoush Khaleghi, choir conductor, "Gregorian's chromatics fit the character of Persian folk songs and make his arrangement beautiful. In this issue Gregorian is inspired from choral version of Armenian folk songs, but as Persian and Armenian music are very close to each other, this idea works well. From the harmonization point of view, there is no movement between voices in his arrangements. Every voice sings one single note at the time. They are all vertical but it is of course depends on the taste of the composer and the effect he/she is going to create." 

Here is a sample of Rubik Gregorian's arrangments which was performed by the National Choir of Persia in 1970s, conducted by Alfred Mardoian. The song is called "To Bio" (Come to Me) from Bakhtiari region in South-Western Persia: 

1970s : National Choir, Director: Alfred Mardoyan

In 1972 the National Choir of Persia (Kor-e Melli-e Iran) was founded under the direction of Alfred Mardoyan. He arranged both Persian folk and urban songs for this group.

Here is the Mardoyan's choral version of  "Rudaki's Lyre" [Chang-e Roudaki] which has been composed by Rouhollah Khaleghi in 1950s. The lyric is written by Roudaki, 9th-century Persian poet. This work was originally performed by celebrated vocalists Marzieh and Banan at Radio Tehran (Listen to the original version). Choral version was performed in ca. 1976 in Tehran. The conductor is also Alfred Mardoyan:  

Tehran Choir & Farah Chore: Evlin Baghcheban

The opera singer Evelyn (Evlin) Baghcheban also had a key role to improve Persian choral music. She was the conductor of Tehran Conservatory Choir for years since early 1950s and later in early 1970s she founded "Tehran Choir" and later "Farah Choir".

Tehran Choir, conducted by Evlin Baghcheban, Rudaki Hall, Tehran, 1974.

Shortly before the 1979 Islamic revolution in Persia - which restricted the musical activities in the country - "Farah Choir" was in Austria to record choral parts of "Ranginkamoon". It was a collection of works by Samin Baghcheban for children. When the cassette became ready to release Shah of Persia and the queen Farah Diba was in exile so the group decided to change its name to "Mithra Choir" otherwise they could not be active anymore. However all of their activities was stopped after one year.

Here is a rare recording of Farah Choir which is the choral version of the folk song "Baboli Koreh". Evlin Baghcheban has arranged the song for the choir herself:


Samin Baghcheban also arranged various Persian folk songs for choir; one of them is "To Bio" which was earlier arranged by Gregorian. Baghcheban's style but is much different. He shows more interest to use the Persian folk melodies as an idea and develop them. Baghcheban uses imitation and dron in his arrangements as well.

Stephen Ackert, American musician, who used to work in Tehran in 1970s believes, Baghcheban has been inspired by Orthodox church music tradition, which he might well have encountered in works of Armenian composers. "Comparing to arrangements of Gregorian, Baghcheban's arrangement sounds more modern, because in his time, composers started to return to....... - What Gregorian did is what Western composers such as Brahms did with folk music in 19th century; using  four-part SATB choir and a wide variety of chromatic harmonies."

Here you may listen to Samin Baghtcheban arrangment of "To Bio":

Golnoush Khaleghi and Hamavazan : NIRT Choir

In 1974 Golnoush Khaleghi was invited by the National Iranian Radio and Television (NIRT) to come to Tehran and create a choral school and group. She was the conductor of "Hamavazan" until 1979. The group was performing Western classical pieces and just in one concert performed "Gol-Aman" with NIRT Chamber Orchestra. "Gol Aman" was a piece by Ruben Gregorian, based on two Persian folk songs. It was performed in a concert in 1977 in Tehran's Golestan Palace. 

Golnoush Khaleghi has arranged and recorded three works of his father, Rouhollah Khaleghi, for choir: "Negah-e Ashegh", lyrics by Fereydoun Moshiri, "Bahar-e Delneshin" and  the worldwide known "Ey Iran" anthem.

- Other Choral Works by Persian Composers:

Sarbaz" [Soldier] (1966), on poems by Ebrahim Safaei, for choir and orchestra, by Hossein Dehlavi

"Chehreh-ye Gol" [Face of Flower] (1969), on poems by Jamshid Moayed, for Choir & Organ, by Mehran Rouhani

"Three Pieces on Khayyam Rubaiyat" (ca. 1970) for a cappella choir, by Mostafa-Kamal Pourtorab

"Matal" (1973) for Choir, Piano and Percussions, by Samin Baghcheban

"Azadi" [Freedom] (1979), by Golnoush Khaleghi

"Asrar-e Azal" [Mysteries of Eternity] (?), on poems by Khayyam, by Kambiz Roshanravan

"Persian Folklore" (1984), for a cappella choir, by Reza Vali

"We are One" (2011), on Poems by Sa'di, for a cappella choir, by Behzad Ranjbaran

"O! Friend" [Ey Yaar] (?) for a cappella choir, by Ahmad Pejman

- Persian Choral Pieces by non-Persian Composers:

- "Water of Kharabat", on Poems by Hafez, for a cappella choir, by Liselotte Sels (Watch)


mn on 2014-03-04 22:35

What is the source of the video? the footage is quite rare.

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