May 19, 2009

Lakota Music Project

Native singers, orchestra create S. Dakota sound

Styles blend in concert collaboration

By Peter Harriman
In a previous year, members of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate also had performed a dance for orchestra musicians who played a concert on the reservation, and they invited the orchestra members to join in.

From this background, the collaborative Lakota Music Project took shape, aided by a National Endowment for the Arts grant.

The concerts across South Dakota recognize that both the orchestra and the drum group are keepers of respective musical traditions, Gier says. To that end, Ronnie Theisz, a faculty member at Black Hills State University and a member of the Porcupine Singers, suggested each group explore four themes in the first part of the concert. The themes are courtship and love; warriors; death and mourning; and joy.

During a rehearsal Tuesday at Augustana College, the drum group and orchestra began to hammer out the nuts and bolts of their collaboration. The fact that the orchestra works from printed music and the Lakota singers from an oral tradition meant the Porcupine Singers have to accommodate somewhat to the traditions of orchestra music.

But while Brent Michael David's "Black Hills Olowan" composition initially highlights distinctions between the two musical styles, there comes a point where they merge and follow the Lakota lead. The woodwinds and strings echo the lyrical keening of Young Bear, Theisz, Emmanuel Black Bear, Tim Black Bear and John Mesteth. The sound soars, seems ready to float the roof off the rehearsal room and crumble the cinder block walls.
Below:  "Delta David Gier conducts a rehearsal of the South Dakota Symphony and Porcupine Singers from Pine Ridge for a series of joint South Dakota concerts. The series begins today in Flandreau. A Thursday performance is set for the Multi-Cultural Center." (Emily Spartz/Argus Leader)


Anonymous said...

What a great success last night in Flandreau —for musicians and audience alike!

It was like being a fly on the wall watching all these wonderful musicians collaborate. Everyone was so relaxed and comfortable making music together.
It's obvious that these musicians have great respect for each other.

The audience was a nice mix of people. We really enjoyed ourselves. It was exciting being a part of watching it unfold. Both halves of the concert were equally inspiring and enjoyable.

Rob said...

For more on the subject, see:

Lakota Get Classical in Unique Musical Mash-Up

Native American drum group combines its sound with a classical symphony orchestra