On Saturday, August 2nd, the Shahnameh Millennium Concert entertained crowds at Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall with its fusion of western classical music, 1,000 years-old Persian script and contemporary technology. It paid homage to Ferdowsi's ancient Shahnameh, with music written by composer Behzad Ranjbaran. However, it also marked the occasion to honour some of the greatest contributors to the field of Iranian Studies.
In three separate lifetime achievement awards, Dr. Yarshater, Dr. Mohammad Reza Shafiee-Kadkani, and Dr. Ali Banuazizi were honoured immediately preceding the concert featuring the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, conductor JoAnn Falletta, and narrator Morshed Torabi.
Dr. Yarshater was recognized for his scholarly accomplishment in Iranian Studies, outside of Iran. As a specialist in the ancient language of Old Persian, the scholar received his two PhDs from the University of Tehran as well as the University of London. In the 1950s, he began what would be a life-long affiliation with Columbia University in New York City. Although he is now retired, Dr. Yarshater is still very active in scholarship and is now best-known as Editor of the Encyclopedia Iranica, which is a hugely successful project. Dr. Yarshater in fact is known to be one of the founders of Iranian Studies in North America.
Dr. Ehsan Yarshater
"I would also like to express my gratitude to the council of international society of Iranian studies and its executive committee and bestowing on me this great honour," he said after he was honoured on Saturday.
Professor Dr. Mohammad Reza Shafiee-Kadkani was not able to be in attendance for his lifetime achievement award within Iran, as he had to fly to Austin, Texas earlier in the day for a family emergency. That did not stop the fact that he would be honoured, however, as Professor Karimi-Hakkak from the University of Delaware was on hand to tout Shafiee-Katami's credentials.
"He has helped shape the perceptions of at least two generations of scholars throughout Western Asia and beyond," Karimi-Hakkak said to the audience." As a poet, he has done much to integrate the best of classical aesthetic tradition into modern and contemporary poetry."
Shafiee-Kadkani indeed is renowned for scholarly work in Iranian Studies, as his influence on educating and guiding the next generation of academic teachers in Iran has also been instrumental.
The last award went to Dr. Ali Banuazizi, also one of the founding members of Iranian Studies in this continent. He is a Professor of Political Science at Boston College, and has had academic appointments at Harvard, Princeton, Yale, M.I.T, Oxford and Tehran University.
Dr. Banuazizi was elected the second President of the International Society of Iranian Studies in 1988, and was also the founding editor of the society's journal from 1968 to 1982. He is currently a member of the advisory committee of Encyclopedia Iranica.
"From the very beginning, we have been a very inclusive society; in terms of our geographic boundaries, our membership and in our disciplines," he said at the ceremony.
"This both indicates and guarantees that ours will never become a society based on Persian chauvism. Instead, our focus shall remain on the scholarly study of Iran."
Clearly, Saturday August 2nd was a night of celebration. A celebration of Iranian music, art, and culture. But also a celebration of the best and brightest in Iranian academics.
For more pictures and information on the Shahnameh Concert and Iranian Studies Conference, please visit Salam Toronto's web site.
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