Bernstein wrote this piece in honor of the forty-first birthday of his friend mezzo-soprano Jennie Tourel. The song incorporates an old Lebanese folksong, the Arabic words of which are paraphrased in the lyrics: “The boys in the dark olive groves assemble.” Bernstein can be heard singing this tune in the 1967 film Journey to Jerusalem.
Sung in English
Text by Leonard Bernstein, after a Lebanese folksong
A last little bird on a palm feather riding,
Black and clean in the afterglow.
A lone little girl in the olive grove hiding,
Crooning soft as the sun sinks low: oo, oo,
An old little jeep through the mountains crawling,
Tough and tiny against the sun,
A young Arab shepherd upon his knees falling,
Allah, Allah, the day is done, ee,ee, ee,
The boys in the dark olive groves assemble,
Hand in hand in a dancing ring,
Their eyes to the sun, and their lips atremble,
Drunk with love and the chant they sing:
Walad ela ‘Una, Norkod taht el zetuna!
Ah! Ha! ‘rrfah
Publisher: Universal Polygram International Publishing
Premiere: February 13, 1955, Washington, D.C.
Katherine Hanse, soprano; Evelyn Swarthout, piano