Gilgamesh: Assyrian Oratorio

     The ancient Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh has inspired scores of novels, plays and operas. Gilgamesh, the Assyrian opera by the American composer John Craton, is also sung in Aramaic, the language of the Assyrians. Craton's Gilgamesh is a work in progress.

      Now comes Gilgamesh Oratorio by Rev. Samuel Khangaldy. An oratorio more often is a choral work based on a religious theme, but it is not part of the official chruch service. Handel's Messiah is a good example. There are secular oratorios, as well, Rev. Khangaldy points out, such as Handel's Semele and Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio.

     Gilgamesh Oratorio, a work in progress, falls in the latter group. "It will be written in 15 parts and cover the whole Epic of Gilgamesh," he says.

     Rev. Khangaldy's original text is based on four English versions of Gilgamesh (10 have been published in English) as well as two Assyrian and a Farsi. "I will have my own sentencing and words in adopting the lyrics for Gilgamesh," he explains, "and will do my best to stay close to Rabi Eddy Alkhas' translation and be in tune with other versions."

     The Rev. Khangaldy's Gilgamesh will have two separate sets of lyrics, in Assyrian and in English, to  be sung separately, he notes. "I hope some day this piece will be performed for a non-Assyrian audience and I want it to be understandable for them as well," he adds.

     Keeping up his church duties as well as teaching piano forces Rev. Khangaldy to work on the oratorio in his spare time. Based on that schedule, he figures the 90-minute long Gilgamesh Oratorio will take him about two years to complete.

     No matter, for the Assyrians need every work of art produced that we can call our own, regardless of how long it takes to create it. We have been around for ages and are a patient people, especially for something worthwhile.

— Obelit Yadgar

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