January 18, 2010

Symphony incorporates Yup'ik dance song

Yup'ik tune at the core of symphony premiere

By Mike Dunham"Ciuliamta cauyam" by Alaska singer James Afcan of St. Marys received its world premiere in symphonic form in Atwood Concert Hall on Saturday night--and the composer didn't know it was happening.

Afcan's Yup'ik dance song ("yuraq") received royal treatment in "Exposition on the Anchorage Museum," which Music Nova commissioned from Gregory Prechel of California and which the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra debuted this weekend.
And:I was at the St. Marys potlatch when Afcan first performed this piece 10 years ago. It caused a sensation. The crowd demanded several encores.

In the program notes, Prechel acknowledges that three themes in the movement are "inspired by melodies handed down from the heritage of Alaska Natives." In a phone call after the concert, Afcan was surprised to hear about the program or the inclusion of "Ciuliamta" in it.

Prechel must share the enthusiasm of the St. Marys elders for the palpable power of the song. It dominates the movement. Prechel brilliantly develops Afcan's 12-note motif into the most exciting and satisfying part of "Exposition." This section had me on the edge of my chair. The same tune gets tucked into the finale, "Alaskan Landscapes," along with the initial fanfare and other previously-heard themes.
Comment:  For more on Alaskan music, see Mi'kmaq Writes Alaska Song and Native Symphony with Sea Chanties.

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