June 18, 2023 will mark 40 years since 10 Baha’i women were hanged in Shiraz. Their only ‘crime’ was their refusal to renounce their beliefs in a faith that promotes the principles of gender equality, unity, justice, and truthfulness. This collection highlights Baha’i Blog content relating to the ongoing persecution of Baha’is in Iran.
Abdu’l-Baha was the eldest son of Baha’u’llah who referred to Him as “the Mystery of God” and “a shelter for all mankind”, however Abdu’l-Baha preferred to be called “Abdu’l-Baha” which means “the Servant of Baha” in reference to His servitude to Baha’u’llah. When Abdu’l-Baha passed away on 28 November 1921, He was eulogized as One who led humanity to the “Way of Truth,” as a “pillar of peace” and the embodiment of “glory and greatness.”
Hommage à Abdu’l-Baha (Tribute to Abdu’l-Baha) – An Album by Lucie Dubé
Lucie Dubé is a singer, songwriter, and composer originally from Sherbrooke, Quebec (Canada). For over 25 years she has been composing and performing music all over the world. Her most recent musical initiative is an album titled Hommage à Abdu’l-Baha, which is French for “Tribute to Abdu’l-Baha” as this work was created in honor of the centenary of His Passing. The album includes 13 Baha’i Writings sung in French by a choir (comprised of 40 singers and soloists) accompanied by piano, string quartet and flute.
Lucie graciously agreed to tell us about her album. Here is what she shared:
Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
After beginning piano studies at the age of eight, I continued to study classical piano, voice and chamber music at university for a number of years. Later, I returned to university to do post-graduate studies in composition. I have written some 160 songs, and about 100 instrumental pieces for theatre and film. I was 23 years old when I discovered the Baha’i Faith (through the teaching of my dear uncle), and that completely changed my understanding of the arts. I had the privilege of having Tom Price as a producer for a number of years and I was able to sing and act in over 20 countries to spread the message of Baha’u’llah. I made several recordings, but the one closest to my heart is called The Toolbox, about the spiritual education of children.
More recently, I produced three other recordings, the CDs Les Paroles cachées (Hidden Words), in honour of the bicentenary celebrations of the Births of the Bab and Baha’u’llah, and, more recently Hommage à Abdu’l-Baha (Tribute to Abdu’l-Baha), for the centenary of the Ascension of the beloved Master.
I have spent the past 40 years trying to deepen my understanding of what it means to be an artist in relation to the Baha’i Faith and the Baha’i Writings.
Married for 33 years, I have two magnificent daughters. And I am happy to say that I am now a grandmother!
I am part of a music duo with my husband, Christian Prévost, who happens to be my favourite violinist! And we are privileged to participate in a number of artistic projects with our daughters, both of whom are artists in their own right.
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little bit about ‘Hommage à Abdu’l-Baha’? What was the inspiration behind this album?
L’Hommage à Abdu’l-Baha was born two years ago when a few friends gathered to study Ruhi Book 8 together. As we were studying, I took the initiative to set some of the sublime quotations from the Writings to music, in order to help us memorize them. As we began to blend our voices in song, it became clear to all that we wanted to raise our voices in homage to Abdu’l-Baha in order to fittingly celebrate His Ascension, which was then not far off. A CD project began to take shape and we worked over the past two years to make this offering to the beloved Son of Baha’u’llah, the Centre of His Covenant with the world.
It was my heartfelt desire to involve as many people as possible in the project. So I invited all those who wanted to take part to participate, whether by singing or helping to write the content for the booklet that would accompany the CD. The only prerequisite was love and the desire to show gratitude to the larger-than-life Being that was Abdu’l-Baha.
I composed music for 13 passages from the Baha’i Writings that relate to this unique love story between the Bab, Baha’u’llah and Abdul’Baha. The music was scored for a three-part choir of 40 voices, string quarter, piano and transverse flute.
Baha’i Blog: What did you learn in the process of creating this album?
This project was carried out under the stress of the world-wide pandemic. It was necessary to record each of the singers and musicians one at a time. This meant that each participant had to show perseverance and courage. Some rehearsals took place on Zoom, for those who needed help with reading the music, for very few were trained musicians. Others learned the pieces using recordings, which they had to follow carefully, since the final result depended on their accuracy!
This was a demanding experience for everyone, and each participant was constrained to offer their gift of song or writing or translation alone and each time a new voice was added I could feel the power of the principle of unity in diversity. Each contribution lent a new shade of colour to the project and as each person gave their full effort, every drop joined an ocean of love. Some of the participants recorded all 13 pieces, while others only two, or four, or eight.
I can assure you that when everyone heard all their voices joined together in the final recording, it was a powerful experience. For me, it was a confirmation of the power of many complementary forces conjoined and the importance of each individual to the whole.
Finally, to assemble the voices with the string quartet, piano and flute posed other demands of endurance for all. But it allowed us to find parallels with the life of the Master Who at every moment of His life experienced new tribulation. The only control He had over the difficult circumstances of His life was reliance on His capacity to be detached from any trace of ego.
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope people will take with them long after they’ve finished listening?
Of course, as is the hope of any composer, I will be happy if the music pleases the listener and that they will use it to find inspiration, solace and understanding of the deep love, the “mystic union” between Abdu’l-Baha and Baha’u’llah themselves, but will share it liberally with others. And I also fervently hope that the participants in the project will share it widely with their friends and family in the best spirit of teaching.
It is also my hope, true to the original inspiration for this music, that those who listen to it will be moved, as I was, to memorize some of these beautiful quotations and in so doing to have as a constant reminder the example of the Master.
As the Writings tell us, music is as a ladder for the soul. I never cease to be fascinated by the power of music to affect the heart that is open. So I try to devote my musical talents to the service of spirituality. Setting the Sacred Writings to music is by far what inspires me the most, for beauty is an attribute of the soul. I aspire to polish the mirror of my heart so that the instrument that God has given me will be as finely tuned as possible. In this way, the inspiration will be the purest and will have the greatest impact on the heart of the listener.
Baha’i Blog: What advice might you offer someone who is just starting to put the Writings to music?
I am in the process of “recuperating” from this major project. But it is our hope to be able, even in this uncertain future, to be able to come together to sing the pieces in the CD Hommage à Abdu’l-Baha so that we can share more widely, and in person, knowledge of His life and teachings. And I have other recording projects in the works for the theatre and film.
In each of these projects, I am motivated by the desire to orient people towards a new understanding of the arts, as articulated in the Baha’i Writings. For to my mind, the artist is principally a being in search of the “divine art of living.” Everything else is less important to me. Of course, it is important to develop our capacities to the fullest, to hone the gifts we have been given. But to what purpose? That is the question. To serve humanity is a mission far more vast and meaningful than simply developing talent for its own sake. It is important to understand our individual uniqueness and if we wish to rise above mere artistic imitation, we must meditate deeply on the concept of oneness. Creativity can enhance our spiritual health and independence of thought is critical for the independent search for truth.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much, Lucie, for taking the time to tell us about your latest album.
In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a stay-at-home parent and a bookworm with a maxed out library card but professionally she is a museologist with a background in English Literature. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she's driving at night.