Northern Illinois Bahá'ís

Northern Illinois Bahá'ís

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How Faith Asks Us to Deal with Our Pain

Baha'i - 3 hours 7 min ago

We’ve all felt our own anger, and we’ve probably all wondered, after the rage subsides, what to do about it. How can we control it, and move past it? “Where...

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The Peace and Joy of Our Passing

Baha'i - 5 hours 7 min ago

We will experience a sense of joy, peace and delight when we die, the Baha’i teachings say—and so do the thousands upon thousands of people who have had near-death experiences....

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War: the Ultimate Human Tantrum

Baha'i - Sat, 04/21/2018 - 12:00pm

I have some pretty violent ancestors—but then again, we probably all do. I’m not proud of them, except for one who famously departed from his family tradition. My Norwegian family...

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The Ineffable Nature of Dying

Baha'i - Sat, 04/21/2018 - 10:00am

Have you ever had an ineffable experience—one you simply couldn’t describe in words? In the accounts of the subjects who had near-death experiences in Raymond Moody’s study, particularly in the...

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs Launches Podcasts

Baha'i - Sat, 04/21/2018 - 8:00am

We live in the age of converged media—the written word, audio, video and the web all appear on small devices we carry around in pockets and purses. It’s magic! Or...

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A Call to Action for Music Consumers and Creators

Baha'i - Fri, 04/20/2018 - 12:00pm

In the first segment of this series, we analyzed the effects of melody on the human body, mind, and spirit. In the second segment, we focused on how the messaging...

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Transforming Anger into Action

Baha'i - Fri, 04/20/2018 - 10:00am

Every parent has been in this movie: when children don’t get their way, or when the frustrations and pain of this life overwhelm them, kids sometimes lose it. Whether you...

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Celebrating Ridvan, the Festival of Paradise

Baha'i - Fri, 04/20/2018 - 8:00am

Beginning at sunset today, Baha’is all around the world will celebrate the “King of Festivals,” the holiest twelve days of the Baha’i year. This celebration started in the place where...

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The Trumpet Blast: Music Inspired by the Life of Baha’u’llah

Baha'i Blog - Thu, 04/19/2018 - 7:48pm

Nikolai Clavier is the creative mind behind The Trumpet Blasta musical score for a play about the life of Baha’u’llah by that same name. Performed in Norway to celebrate the Bicentenary anniversary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah, this 14 track instrumental album includes pieces titled ‘Ridvan’, ‘The Heavenly Maid’, and ‘The Mansion of Bahji’, among many others. 

Nikolai Clavier’s Trompetstøtet, or The Trumpet Blast, premiered in Beitostølen, Norway in July of 2017. Each song accompanies a scene about the life of Baha’u’llah but listening to the soundtrack, even without the dialogue and action of the play, is nevertheless a dramatic experience. Nikolai gladly agreed to tell us more about this musical arrangement and the performance it accompanied. I hope you enjoy our conversation!

Baha’i Blog: Hi Nikolai! Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your work as a musician?

You often hear composers and musicians starting on their craft at a very early age, but my own musical career began at the threshold of maturity, at the age of 14. I grew up on the west coast of Norway, in a city called Stavanger — a culturally rich province surrounded by beautiful fjords and mountains, and I started playing the viola in the local music school after becoming mesmerized by my first classical music encounter. Thanks to the help of good teachers and motivating mentors, I managed to complete a 4 year Bachelor at one of the most prestigious conservatories of Norway only 7 years later. Just like most of the new generation of classical composers, my music is founded on the classical tradition but get its influence from worlds like pop, jazz and other contemporary genres.

The world of music is tough and highly competitive, especially for classical musicians. As a Baha’i you often wonder whether the time and energy spent in this profession is of benefit to mankind, but then I read the Writings concerning the arts and it gives me strength to keep striving. Currently, I am living in the Netherlands with my wife Tess and completing a Master in performing music and composition at the Fontys Conservatory.

Baha’i Blog: How did ‘The Trumpet Blast’ come about? What was the inspiration behind it?

It all started in 2016 when I did a collaboration with the screenwriter Sven Erik Ellund and the actress Anne Trine Austvoll. They wanted to make a theatre play on the life of Johanna Schubarth, the first Baha’i in Norway, and to perform it at the annual summer school. The amount of research that Ellund and Austvoll put into this script was astonishing! They would dig into old archives, books and historical documents for months, and mysteriously enough — as if given by the hand of Providence — a book filled with pilgrim notes was found inside the house of our LSA secretary the same year which could be traced back to Johanna Schubarth’s trips to the Holy land in the 1950’s and her meetings with Shoghi Effendi. I was asked to join the project quite early on, and we would meet in Ellund’s house in Oslo drinking tea and performing drafts from the script for each other. Hence began a close collaboration between Baha’i artists which led to this homage to the first Baha’i in Norway.

The next year, the NSA requested a new theatre play from us, this time in honour of the bicentenary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah. Sven Erik and Anne Trine spent several months creating a wonderful script that was as inspiring as it was ambitious, and in January 2017 the script was sent to me for the creation of a soundtrack. The project took about 6 months and the play was first performed the 17th of July 2017 in Beitostølen.

Baha’i Blog: It must have been amazing collaborating with others! What was that like?

A glimpse of ‘The Heavenly Maid’ scene.

It is a great blessing to be able to serve the Faith alongside other artists within the Baha’i community and immortalizing its history through the performing arts. The collaboration process for The Trumpet Blast was not without its challenges. Ellund then lived in Grand Canaria and I had myself moved to the Netherlands. Thus, most of our interactions happened by email and we spent a lot of our own resources on travelling.

One of the most interesting parts of the collaboration was that we involved a highly skilled choreographer, André Austvoll, to help us with two of the scenes – ‘The Heavenly Maiden’ and ‘The Martyrdom of Badi’. He did a terrific job, and so did the dancer Neda Schulz as she represented the Maiden delivering the message to Baha’u’llah in the darkness of the Siyah Chal. It is wonderful to see what kind of resources are available within this small community.

Baha’i Blog: How did the performance of the play go? How was it received?

The full cast and creators of The Trumpet Blast

The performance was quite successful. The audience amounted to about 250 people, and the Baha’is had strenuously been inviting people from the local community to come to this performance. I guess the response can best be summed up by my mother coming up to me after the performance with tears running down her eyes. The funny part is that our projector failed half way into the piece, thus where we had been relying heavily on the visuals we were now completely dependant on the effects of the music and the acting skills on stage. Yet the audience did not seem to mind.

We also spent a lot of money renting a top notch sound system, because I refused to have my music played on mediocre monitors. The whole idea of the music was to provide an emotional support to the visual components on stage — to bring comfort to the audience and to stimulate the imagination in order to bring the viewers closer to the life of Baha’u’llah. I believe the dance scene with Neda was the most successful part of the evening!

Baha’i Blog: What was something you learned in the process of composing ‘The Trumpet Blast’?

It was the first time I created a full orchestra score in Logic pro X, using mostly sampled instruments and sound effects. The play about Johanna Schubarth had aimed for a tender and intimate sound, closing the gap between the amateur theatre on stage and the expectation of the audience. This play, in contrast, I had envisioned a more grandiose sound as a tribute to the most recent Manifestation of God on earth. The biggest challenge was to feel worthy to the task. For instance, I wanted to compose a theme for Baha’u’llahs person, but I was stuck with the question “How can I adequately compose a theme a the manifestation of God”? Thus my feeling of inadequacy led me to abandon my plans of adding a leitmotif to Baha’u’llah and rather I contented with colouring each scene separately. Thus the collage-like structure of the play was reinforced by the musical landscapes I tried to create. In the end of my composing process I had the idea of recording a friend of mine, Diederik Smulders, on the cello and using his beautiful cello tone as a voice for Baha’u’llah’s human side. I could never venture to portray His divine attributes, but I felt up to the task of voicing the lamentation of exile and the joy of finally being released into the gardens of Bahji with the subtle sound of the cello.

I guess one of the biggest learnings I can retain from this experience is that self-criticism can only improve my work so far before it starts to limit my creativity. Thus, having accomplished this task despite harsh self-opposition, I feel ready for whatever the future may hold. After all, what can possibly be more difficult than trying to express the life of a Manifestation of God through the language of music?

Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much, Nikolai, for sharing this with us!

You can listen to The Trumpet Blast in full here on Nikolai’s SoundCloud page:

Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

Leili Towfigh’s Striking Artistic Vision for Race Unity

Baha'i - Thu, 04/19/2018 - 3:55pm

Welcome to Cloud9, a new podcast series from! We feature interviews with artists from around the globe to learn about what inspires, uplifts and motivates them to make a positive...

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The Science of Song: How Lyrics Impact Our Minds and Souls

Baha'i - Thu, 04/19/2018 - 10:00am

Although each of us has our own musical tastes and preferences, it’s hard to escape the rest of what’s out there in the world of music. Most of us don’t...

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Can We Prove the Existence of God?

Baha'i - Thu, 04/19/2018 - 8:00am

Is there evidence for the existence of God? How can we practically reconcile religion with science? Do purple elephants control us? My good friend is an atheist. He argues that...

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Anger: the Acid that Destroys from Within

Baha'i - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 12:00pm

Mark Twain said “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” Do you...

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Can Music and Melody Awaken Our True Nature?

Baha'i - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 10:00am

Regardless of how much music we’ve been exposed to throughout our lives, we’ve definitely been impacted by what we’ve heard. Whether listening to it intentionally—by attending a concert or listening...

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After Devastating Hurricane, Community Unites In Reconstruction

Baha'i - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 8:00am

Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm, was one of the most severe Atlantic hurricanes on record. When it swept through the Caribbean some seven months ago, the destruction it left...

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The Tremendous Force of Faith in Preventing Violence

Baha'i - Tue, 04/17/2018 - 8:00am

If human life is sacred—as all the great religions have taught—then shouldn’t we do everything in our power to avoid harming that life? The Baha’i teachings say yes: Beware lest...

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Turn Up the Meaningful Music: BahaiTeachings Launches Monthly Playlist

Baha'i - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 12:00pm

We’re excited to announce a new series of collaborative playlists—which we hope you’ll enjoy—and to share some reflections that inspired it.   Music affects all of us, consciously and unconsciously,...

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Open the Doors of Your Hearts

Baha'i - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 8:08am

So far in these most recent essays, we have reviewed some of the ways Baha’u’llah addresses and fulfills the prophetic expectations of the Bible. We have also seen how Baha’u’llah’s...

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Celebrating Ridvan in Our Garden

Baha'i Blog - Sun, 04/15/2018 - 7:20pm

Ridvan is the King of Festivals in the Baha’i calendar. The twelve days of the Festival of Ridvan mark the momentous occasion when Baha’u’llah told His supporters that He was the Promised One they had been awaiting. At that time, Baha’u’llah was in a beautiful garden on the Tigris River in Baghdad. The garden was named Ridvan, or Paradise in English, by Baha’u’llah’s followers. Roses in full bloom lined its paths. Nightingales sang throughout the night. Baha’u’llah said:

The Divine Springtime is come, O Most Exalted Pen, for the Festival of the All-Merciful is fast approaching. Bestir thyself, and magnify, before the entire creation, the name of God, and celebrate His praise, in such wise that all created things may be regenerated and made new.

Baha’is around the world reflect on the story of Ridvan each year. One year I realised that the Festival of Ridvan is the perfect time of year for big gardening projects. We live in Sydney, Australia so while the Northern Hemisphere is enjoying spring, we are in the midst of autumn. Each Ridvan I do things such as the mass planting of seeds, building new garden beds, pruning, etc. While I work in my garden, I reflect on the time Baha’u’llah spent in the Ridvan garden. 

Pictured above: A diversity of flowers found in Yvonne Perkins’ shared garden.

Gardening time is thinking time. As I have worked in the garden I have also been thinking about the Baha’i calendar. This calendar reflects the relationship between our planet and its sun. The calendar links our human life with the passage of time marked by plants and animals. I am filled with wonder at how in tune our calendar is with our natural environment. The start of the Baha’i year, Naw-Ruz, is celebrated when the vernal equinox begins in the Northern Hemisphere using Tihran, Baha’u’llah’s birthplace, as its standard. On this day the sun sheds the same amount of light on every place on earth. Abdu’l-Baha said the following about Naw-Ruz:

When the sun appears at the equinox it causes a movement in all living things. The mineral world is set in motion, plants begin to sprout, the desert is changed into a prairie, trees bud and every living thing responds, including the bodies of animals and men.

I don’t do any planting or pruning until Naw-Ruz. While the weather might be mild some times before this, we still could have some very hot days before then which could damage newly sown or pruned plants. I wait until Naw-Ruz in order to foster new growth in the garden.

Garden design is part of the work of a gardener. There are always dead plants and annuals that need replacing. When we moved into our house, the borders of the garden beds lining the paths were empty. I have been guided by Abdu’l-Baha’s words:

How unpleasing to the eye if all the flowers and plants, the leaves and blossoms, the fruits, the branches and the trees of that garden were all of the same shape and colour! Diversity of hues, form and shape, enricheth and adorneth the garden, and heighteneth the effect thereof. In like manner, when divers shades of thought, temperament and character, are brought together under the power and influence of one central agency, the beauty and glory of human perfection will be revealed and made manifest.

The physical complements the spiritual and we can find guidance for both aspects of our lives in the Baha’i Writings. Just as the Baha’i gardens in Haifa and Akka demonstrate the principle of unity in diversity, we can also reflect this principle in our own gardens by planting a large variety of plants alongside each other.

Pictured above: A winding path in Yvonne Perkins’ garden which she shares with her neighbours.

I worked on relieving the monotony of large patches of the same type of plant in our garden by filling the borders with a variety of flowering plants. Initially it can be more difficult working with diversity, but as Abdu’l-Baha says, the results are far greater. Having diversity in a garden also has practical benefits. If one plant is diseased, it can spread to all plants of the same type. In a garden with mono-plantings, this can kill all the plants and leave a large gap in the garden. A garden with diversity will be better able to withstand the disease in one plant. Another benefit is that plants flower at different times of the year. A garden with diversity will always have some plants flowering.

We share the garden with our next-door neighbours who are also our landlords. During Easter of last year, which occurred a week before Ridvan, they had a truckload of mulch, dirt, manure and stones delivered. They worked hard shovelling it from the place it was dumped and distributing it through the garden.

After their work the garden looked wonderful. The camellias were dropping pink petals on the lustrous green leaves of the gardenias and on a well-mulched garden path. The dahlias that marked the border of the garden beds were blooming, as were the dwarf chrysanthemums. The purple flower spears of salvia from another garden bed were spilling over the path. Days were going by with not a cloud and the sky was a beautiful autumnal blue. Our garden made hearts sing.

On the First Day of Ridvan I sat on our verandah with my morning cup of tea. And then the idea came. Our garden should be shared with others. As the idea grew I also reflected on the encouragement of the Universal House of Justice. Over successive messages it has encouraged Baha’is to foster interaction and harmony with their neighbours, to help our communities build bonds of friendship and co-operation with one another.

Depicted above: A seating area for socializing and celebrating in Yvonne Perkins’ garden.

I decided to host an afternoon tea in the garden for our immediate neighbours to celebrate our garden and all the work that our neighbours had put into it. First, I asked our hard-working neighbours next door. They liked the idea. Then I knocked on the doors of the four flats joined onto our homes. Some of these neighbours I already knew but some were complete strangers to me. What would they think of the idea?

On the day I prepared lemon grass tea using the lemon grass growing in our garden. I labelled the potted cuttings of trimmed branches and stems that I had pruned at Naw-Ruz and knew would regrow and placed them behind the outdoor table. Inside I baked some scones and whipped the cream.

Seen above: A blossoming flower from Yvonne Perkins’ garden.

During the afternoon seven of our neighbours came. Gathered around our table were European Australians, Indian Australians and Persian Australians. I briefly shared the story of Ridvan and how it has inspired me with my work in the garden and to host the afternoon tea. We talked about gardening and learned more about each other. As the guests were leaving I invited them to choose a plant and cut some herbs from our garden for them to take home.

The weather was glorious and the companionship warm. The weather, the garden and most importantly the people, reflected the spirit of Ridvan. The Divine Springtime has indeed come!


Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

Panoramic Review: Does Your Life Pass in Front of You?

Baha'i - Sun, 04/15/2018 - 10:00am

When you die, does your entire life pass in front of you in a kind of panoramic review? Many people—those who have undergone near-death experiences and those who h ave...

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