Breathing in the Shadows, the title song cycle from the album with the same name, has earned Saman Shahi a JUNO nomination! The journey of this cycle began in 2015 when Saman Shahi responded to a call for scores for the Crossing Borders recital series. Fevered Ashes was premièred in 2016. After this Maureen commissioned Saman to write a full song cycle with the support of the Ontario Arts Council. Toronto-based pianist, Cheryl Duvall, premièred the work with Maureen in 2018 in Halifax and Toronto. Then, in March 2020, Halifax-based pianist, Tara Scott and Maureen recorded the work for commercial release. Huge thank-you to our funders Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, and FACTOR for supporting the recording.
The album, released in September 2020 on Halifax-based label, Leaf Music, includes three song cycles, two of which are based on poetry by women from across the globe. The title cycle, “Breathing in the Shadows” tells stories of oppression through alienation, resistance, and self-actualization. Resonating with many communities that historically have lived through the experiences of these struggles, the poems have an inherent musicality, evocative imagery, and a powerful message of unity and hope. The poets represented in this cycle are Forough Farrokhzad (Iran), Carilda Oliver Labra (Cuba), Dora Gabe (Bulgaria), Zhai Yongming (China), and Titilope Sonuga (Nigeria). “Breathing in the Shadows” features Maureen Batt, soprano, and Tara Scott, piano. This cycle was commissioned by Maureen Batt with the support of the Ontario Arts Council and premièred through the recital series Crossing Borders.
The second cycle “Orbit” is a work commissioned by tenor Fabián Arciniegas , set to the poetry of Serbian-Canadian Jelena Ćirić. Winner of the inaugural Canadian Amateur Musicians’ Association (CAMMAC) composition competition in 2019. Set within three movements, the poetry highlights the murky areas of human relationships, uncertainties and inner battles we all experience while interacting with others. “Orbit” features Fabián Arciniegas – Tenor and Tara Scott – Piano.
In the third song cycle “Songs of a Wandering Soul,” Saman explores his musical identity rooted in his Western Classical training, minimalism, Contemporary Art music, Progressive Rock, Jazz and Iranian traditional music. The music leaps back and forth between these worlds much like an immigrant trying to figure out a new place to belong. The poetry used in this cycle is drawn from Shahi’s teenage years where he was trying to navigate his new life in Canada with words in the early days of blogging. The work displaces the pulse constantly to create an inner sense of groove that changes from measure to measure. “Songs of a Wandering Soul” features Tiffany Hanus – Soprano, Saman Shahi – Piano, Peter Lutek – Woodwinds, Derek Gray – Percussion, Scott Peterson – Electric and upright bass, Natalie Wong – Violin and Cheryl Ockrant– Cello.
‘Breathing in the Shadows’ is a collection of pieces that I have grown to embrace as some of my most authentic and honest work. I am so humbled to be surrounded by colleagues who believed in my work that enabled the coming to fruition of this album in such high quality and artistic finesse. ~ Saman Shahi
Saman Shahi is an award-winning and published composer, pianist, conductor and educator based in Toronto. He’s active in classical music, new music, Iranian traditional music, rock and electronic music, and because of his constant activities in Canada and abroad he has become a sought after performer and composer. Saman’s compositions, including some of his short film scores have been performed in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. As a pianist and conductor, Saman has been an avid performer and advocate of new music in Toronto, and he regularly performs with a variety of Ensembles and musicians. Saman is an Affiliate Member of the Canadian League of Composers, Associate Composer at the Canadian Music Centre as well as a SOCAN member. He is also one of the founders and the executive director at the Iranian-Canadian Composers of Toronto, ICOT, a 7-year-old art organization that bridges cultures through music and art. Saman is also an active member of the Circle music band, a rock fusion group in Toronto. He was appointed as the music director at Peterborough concert band in 2019. Saman also works as a composer-educator with the Canadian Opera Company.