The word vishwas (विशवास) expresses the concept of fervent belief, or faith, in Hindi. Meera Bai, a celebrated saint-poet from 15th century India, is the quintessential embodiment of vishwas. Though she is forced into a traditional marriage to unite two kingdoms, she believes she is married to the Lord Krishna, a Hindu deity, and the events of her life are shaped around her fervent devotion to this intangible but omnipresent figure.
Testament is the final movement of a three part work for bharatanatyam (Indian classical) dancer and orchestra. In Meera’s stubbornness, she stages a hunger strike outside the temple of her Lord Krishna, refusing to eat until the doors are opened. One night, after days of fasting, she is extremely weak and lays down to rest. A storm brews, and the high winds begin to swing the lamp outside the temple’s wooden door, causing the door to catch fire. As the storm builds, the door burns, eventually causing the entrance to
the temple to reopen. This piece incorporates one of Meera’s own bhajans (devotional songs), in Raag Malhar, the raag that beckons rain. Krishna has used the forces of nature to show himself, and to honor Meera’s faithfulness to him. Even as the flames surround her, Meera walks calmly into the temple to honor her Lord.
Vishwas makes use of traditional Hindustani raags, which are woven through the fabric of the composition. It is fitting that all the information we currently have about Meera Bai and her struggles for self-expression are from her own songs.
Special Performance Requirements
Vishwas contains an optional tabla part, which requires the tabla player to bring both a C and D tabla. If the tabla player reads western notation, a standard orchestral part is available.
If the tabla player does not read western notation, it is suggested that an intermediary sit alongside the tabla player to serve as a real-time liaison in rehearsal and performance. In addition, a tabla player who has not worked with an orchestra before should meet with the conductor to go through the work beforehand, playing/conducting along with the recording, so that the musical communication process is already familiar before the first rehearsal.
In this version (due to the fact that it is designed for educational use as well), if a tabla is not an option, there is an option for a bass player to do body percussion on their instrument that will provide some of the rhythmic drive of the tabla player. While the tabla player is always preferred, this is a viable option as well.
Audio guide is not yet available.
This work was commissioned and premiered by the Albany Symphony, for their sinfonietta, Dogs of Desire. It was premiered on May 14, 2014 in Troy, NY.
The arrangement for string orchestra was premiered by the Herricks High School String Orchestra; Catherine Birke, conductor. The premiere performance of this work was part of a program that garnered Second Prize at the National Orchestra Festival at the American String Teachers’ Association Conference in 2023.