14th Annual Choral Festival Devotional Concert Commemorating the Bab’s Martyrdom
The Bab was a Divine Messenger Who, in 1844, ushered in a new era for humankind. He supported the independent investigation of truth, the advancement of women, and seeing in “all things” the glory of God’s revelation—teachings for which He gave His life.
It was also the Bab’s mission to prepare the people for the coming of another Divine Messenger Who would show humanity how to come together to create justice that would lead to universal peace. This was Baha’u’llah. His teachings on the oneness of humanity form the foundation of the Baha’i Faith. The program of the Festival Concerts will tell the story of the Bab through diverse musical cultures and styles: Classical, Gospel and Negro Spirituals will be sung in English, Arabic and Persian, with soloists adding other languages.
The more than 125 singers will come from all across North America to sing under the direction of Van Gilmer, music director at the Baha’i House of Worship. Zoom meetings allowed the singers to get to know one another and learn the music, and they will continue in three days of rehearsals before the concerts.
When making the program selections, Gilmer gave special consideration to the many singers who hadn’t had opportunities to sing at all during the pandemic. “The two years off was more than expected,” says Gilmer. “It gave me a lot of time to think about how to be more inclusive in our music.”
He returned to some songs that had been performed in previous festivals to make it easier for singers to learn their parts. All of the songs are performed without sheet music so that the participants can focus on watching directions, listening to one another and singing in unity. The concerts are free to the public. No tickets are required.
About the Bab: “the Gate” to a new era for humanity
Siyyid ‘Ali-Muhammad was known as the Bab, meaning “the Gate” in Arabic. The Bab was a Messenger of God Who, in 1844 in Iran, announced that He was the gateway to a new era for humankind. It was the Bab’s mission to prepare the people for the coming of another, greater Messenger Who would share divine teachings that would allow humanity to come together to create justice and usher in the long foretold era of universal peace.
The Bab was an advocate of the poor. He supported the advancement of women, universal education, and the study of science—radical ideas in that time and place.
Over the course of six years, the Bab attracted many thousands of followers. The enthusiasm with which they accepted His teachings alarmed the clergy and government officials of the day. They imprisoned and tortured the Bab and hundreds of His followers, called Babis. Despite these persecutions, the movement spread like wildfire.
In 1850 a new prime minister ordered the Bab to be executed by firing squad. The night before the planned execution, a young man called Anis, threw himself at the feet of the Bab and begged to be martyred with Him.
On the morning of July 9, thousands of people gathered to watch the execution in the public courtyard of the barracks in Tabriz.
The Bab and Anis were suspended by ropes on a wall and a firing squad of soldiers prepared to shoot. The order to fire was given. When the smoke cleared, not only had the first volley failed to kill them, the Bab was nowhere to be seen. Guards found Him in His cell completing a letter that had been interrupted. A second firing squad was brought in and a second order to fire was given. This time the 750 shots succeeded.
The precious shattered remains of the bodies were secreted away by faithful friends who concealed them until, in 1909, they were able to be interred in a special tomb, the Shrine of the Bab on Mount Carmel in present-day Haifa, Israel.
Baha’u’llah was among the many who remained faithful after the Martyrdom of the Bab. Bahá’u’lláh led efforts to maintain the unity of the Babi community—a community the government and clergy actively sought to exterminate. Thirteen years later, in 1863, Baha’u’llah revealed that He was the Messenger of God foretold by the Bab. His teachings on the oneness of humanity are the foundation of the Baha’i Faith.