November 16, 2012

Boise Philharmonic’s Sacred Land

Boise Philharmonic’s ‘Sacred Land’ honors Shoshone-Bannock culture

The commission launches Boise’s 150th birthdayWhen Boise Philharmonic music director Robert Franz was asked to come up with an idea to commemorate Boise’s sesquicentennial celebration, his first thought was, “What was happening here 151 years ago?”

“Being new here,” he says, “I was curious about what had come before.”

That simple question led Franz to discover the history of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes, and how they once flourished in the Boise Valley but were forcibly relocated to eastern Idaho in the 1860s.

“It seemed poignant to remind people about this history at this time,” Franz says. “One of the things we can do with art is express ideas and make people aware of them. I thought it would be fitting to somehow honor and describe that history.”

Franz commissioned Idaho composer Jim Cockey to write a piece for chorus, percussion, harp, woodwinds, strings and dance, inspired by the Sho-Ban Indian culture and history.

Cockey’s “Sacred Land” will make its world premiere this weekend in two Boise Philharmonic concerts that will feature the orchestra’s 110-member Master Chorale and choreography by Ballet Idaho’s Alex Ossadnik. Also on the program is Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.”
The commission launches Boise’s 150th birthday

Ballet Idaho's Latest Work Pays Tribute To Shoshone–Bannock Tribes

By Sadie Babits
Boise composer Jim Cockey’s newest work debuts tonight in Nampa. Sacred Land is a tribute to the Shoshone-Bannock tribes. Their history, from before settlers arrived in the Treasure Valley to the forced relocation of the tribes to the Fort Hall Reservation in Eastern Idaho in 1869, unfolds through the music.

The nearly 40 minute arrangement features members of the Boise Philharmonic and the Boise Master Chorale. It will also include a new dance by Ballet Idaho. Alex Ossadnik is the company’s ballet master. He says before he began to choreograph, he picked up on a phrase that’s used in Cockey’s music.

“And that abstract phrase needless to say was the phrase ‘the Boise River ran red with the blood of our people.’ Immediately I saw the effect.”

A tribal member shared that phrase with Cockey, explaining that her great grandmother would describe the relocation from the land in and around Boise with those words.

Ossadnik says he wants to convey the pain and the powerlessness of the relocation more than 150 years ago to the audience. He does this with 14 dancers. They eventually fall to the stage - a massive white sheet that represents the river covers them. “It’s very sculptural,” explains Ossadnik. “This is a very emotional and dark piece.”

The dancers emerge from under the cloth to end with music that represents the healing of all people.
Comment:  For more on concerts honoring Indians, see Mankato Concert to Mourn Dakota War and Caritas Chorale Performs Nez Perce: Promises.

Below:  "Phyllis Rothwell Affrunti and the Ballet Idaho dancers rehearse for an original project honoring the history of the Shoshone-Bannock tribe. They will perform with Boise Philharmonic." (Darin Oswald)

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