Audiences will have the rare opportunity to hear a choral piece honoring Pacific Northwest tribal culture in “A Tribute to Native American Culture” performed by the Palouse Choral Society over the next two weekends.
The second half of the performance will feature “Song of the Salish Chief,” which describes the life of the coastal Salish people through the eyes of an aging chief who celebrates his culture but is watching it deteriorate. The half-hour cantata contains both musical and narrated portions.
“I just think it’s a really important work. It’s really stunning, really powerful,” said Sarah Graham, artistic director and conductor.
Graham grew up in western Washington where she heard and performed the piece. She later directed it in a partnership of Rev. Roy Wilson, a Cowlitz elder who was passionate about the work and felt it represented his culture.
“I know how special and close to his heart this work was,” Graham said.
The work is no longer in print but because Graham has directed it before — this will be her fifth time — she had the printed music and received permission from the composer, Peter Berring of British Columbia, to perform it.
In addition to being a relevant and poignant narrative of native culture, the work is musically rich and well-crafted Graham said.
“Musically, it’s really symbolic and represents the text,” Graham said.
For example, voices mimic basket makers weaving patterns, and as the choirs sing about migration, music conveys the sound of constant movement.
Although the piece reflects a specific coastal tribe and culture, members of the Nez Perce tribe were invited to attend the performance as guests with the intent of honoring their story as well.
“It’s a different story, but so universal,” Graham said. “It’s this message about what human beings do to other human beings.”
The first half of the concert will feature pieces in Lakota and Cree, one based on words from Chief Seattle, and a “Native American Prayer for Peace” from the United Nations Year of Peace. The concert will feature the Palouse Concert Society Chorale and Lewis-Clark State College Concert Choir.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: “A Tribute to Native American Culture” performed by Palouse Choral Society Chorale and Lewis-Clark State College Concert Choir
WHEN & WHERE:
7:30 p.m. Friday, Simpson United Methodist Church, 325 N.E. Maple St., Pullman
4 p.m. Sunday, Clarkston High School Auditorium, 401 Chestnut St.
3 p.m. April 22, St. Gertrude’s Monastery, 465 Keuterville Rd., Cottonwood
COST: $20 adults, $8 students, free for children ages 6 through 12, at the door or in advance at www.palousechoralsociety.org.
Tickets for the St. Gertrude’s Monastery concert are $10 for adults and free for students and children and can be purchased online at www.stgertrudes.org.