The Peabody Wind Ensemble, conducted by Harlan Parker,
will give the world premiere of The Lion of Panshjir
(Symphony No. 2) for Narrator and Symphonic Band by David
Gaines. The narrator will be Haron Amin, Afghanistan's
ambassador to Japan and previously acting ambassador at the
Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, D.C.
Amin served for several years as the representative of
Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud and the Northern Alliance to
the United States. The performance is taking place with the
support, assistance and cooperation of the Embassy of
Afghanistan, author Sebastian Junger, photographer Reza and
the prominent Afghan-American musician Ehsan Aman.
The concert takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday,
Feb. 11, in Peabody's Friedberg Hall.
The Lion of Panshjir came about following the events
of Sept. 11, 2001, two days after Massoud was assassinated.
"That was when I first heard about Ahmad Shah Massoud,
the remarkable leader of the Afghan resistance to the
Soviet Union in the 1980s and then the resistance to the
Taliban in the 1990s," composer David Gaines said. "I
remember watching Sebastian Junger's reports on television
for National Geographic Explorer, as well as reading
newspaper reports of Massoud's assassination at the hands
of agents of Osama bin Laden. I wanted to know about his
role not just as the military leader of the Afghan
resistance but as a humanitarian, a man of compassion, a
lover of poetry and literature, and a supporter of equal
rights for all Afghans."
Ahmad Shah Massoud became known as the Lion of
Panshjir because of his ability to turn back the Soviet Red
Army from his home base in the Panshjir Valley north of
Kabul. He and his band of mujahedeen did this nine times,
wearing down the Soviet Union until it decided to leave
Afghanistan. In 2002, Massoud was nominated posthumously
for both the Nobel Peace Prize and the European
Parliament's Sakharov Prize.
Massoud left no significant writings behind. So, "as
part of this symphony," Gaines said, "I've included text
describing Massoud to bring him to life, in the manner of
Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait.
Text comes from writings on Massoud by Sebastian
Junger, speeches and a press conference given by Massoud,
the documentary film Massoud, the Afghan by Christophe de
Ponfilly and the book Lion by MaryAnn T. Beverley. The
images of Massoud to be displayed during the performance
were taken by Reza, best known for his award-winning work
for National Geographic. Reza enjoyed a 20-year
relationship with the Afghan leader.
Ahmad Shah Massoud was born in 1953. Following his
legendary resistance to the Soviet Army in the early 1980s,
Massoud became defense minister under President Burhanuddin
Rabbani. Following the collapse of Rabbani's government and
the rise of the Taliban, he became the military leader of
the Northern Alliance, a coalition of various Afghan
opposition groups, in a prolonged civil war. As the Taliban
established control over most of Afghanistan, Massoud's
forces were increasingly forced into the mountainous area
of the north. On Sept. 9, 2001, Massoud was killed by
suicide attackers who had posed as television journalists,
setting off a bomb packed inside their video camera.
The narrator for the premiere has an almost equally
dramatic life story. Haron Amin was born in Kabul in 1969
and fled with his family when the Soviets invaded in 1980,
heading to Pakistan, Germany and finally the Los Angeles
area. Amin returned to Afghanistan in 1988 to fight under
Massoud, enduring 18-hour treks through the mountains in
freezing weather, with little food.
In 1990, Massoud assigned Amin to represent Afghan
interests before the U.S. government. Amin returned to
Afghanistan in 1995, working again under Massoud to battle
the Taliban. In 1996, Massoud appointed him to the United
Nations, but Kabul fell to the Taliban on the day Amin left
to take up the post. Amin spent the next five years working
at Afghanistan's permanent mission to the United Nations,
helping prevent the country's U.N. seat from sitting vacant
or falling into the hands of the Taliban, which the U.N.
never officially recognized.
Abdul Rahim Ghafoorza, who became prime minister of
the government in exile, named Amin director general in
1997. From his new base in Mazar-e-Sharif, Amin and his new
boss began to travel constantly together. That summer, Amin
missed a flight. The plane crashed, killing Ghafoorza and
four cabinet members. Amin stayed on in New York as part of
the government in exile until the tide turned again and the
government of Hamid Karzai was established.
With such a storied genesis, the world premiere of The
Lion of Panshjir is a major political as well as musical
David Gaines, who received his doctorate from
Peabody, has had two previous compositions premiered by the
Peabody Wind Ensemble. His works have been performed in
workshops, recitals and concerts by the Tokyo String
Quartet, Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra, Stamford Young
Artists Philharmonic and the Bulgarian Esperanto Choir.
Gaines' Elegy for string orchestra will be performed this
season by the Orquestra de Camara Municipal de Rosario in
Critics have praised Gaines' colorful and imaginative
orchestrations as well as the uniquely international flavor
of his music. Gaines is a past guest composer at the
University of York in England, the Reykjavik Conservatory
in Iceland and the International Music Seminar in Stara
Zagora, Bulgaria. He is currently an adjunct associate
professor at the University of Maryland University
The Feb. 11 program also includes Martin Dalby's A
Plain Man's Hammer; Samuel Adler's Snow Tracks for High
Soprano and Wind Ensemble, featuring soprano Alyssa Bowlby;
and Hindemith's March from Symphonic Metamorphosis in the
arrangement by Keith Wilson.
Tickets are $18, $10 for senior citizens and $8 for
students with ID. For more information, call the Peabody
box office at 410-659-8100, ext. 1190.