A History of the Project
Jung-Ho Pak, conductor of the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra, conceived and initiated the creation of “The Gift of The Elk.” It was his suggestion that the work be centered around a story.
Joseph FireCrow, an award winning Northern Cheyenne singer, drummer, flute maker and player, suggested that the story be of how the Native American flute came to the Northern Cheyenne people. This story has been and will always be a part of the Northern Cheyenne people. The Northern Cheyenne elders graciously granted permission for the use of the story, and they also blessed the project.
Joseph FireCrow and composer Jim Cockey spent a week together shaping the overall structure of the work. Jung-Ho contributed feedback and ideas via email and phone. The concept of including a Welcome Song emerged from Jung-Ho’s desire to make the performance hall more comfortable for indigenous attendees. The song itself was taught to Joe by his mother. The words of welcome are traditional.
After writing the first draft of the work, Jim and Joe met again and reviewed the score. Revisions were incorporated and the final version was then submitted to Jung-Ho Pak. Jung-Ho suggested that the short closing movement not be an exact replica of the opening movement. Jim agreed that more was needed and expanded the length and orchestration of the closing movement.
Obtaining the ceremonial drum for performance was problematic, since they are sacred and invaluable. Though a substitute drum could have been used, Jim was able to procure a ceremonial drum in his home state of Idaho and have it shipped to Cape Cod. It was a two-headed drum, one side made of buffalo and the other made of elk. The opening sixteenth notes heard in the composition are of the ceremonial drum.
With the addition of photography the composition became a multi-media event. Photographer Glenn Oakley and Jim selected the photographs and Jung-Ho Pak choreographed the images. There were many edits and phone calls during this process, true to the collaborative nature of the entire project.
The immediate and enthusiastic audience response, the many emotional one-on-one personal testimonies of the audience members, and the number of compact disks sold after the concert all confirmed that “The Gift of the Elk” was a popular and cross-cultural success.