Being a conductor in many areas of the country where Native Americans were an important part of its history, I’ve always had a a deep appreciation and fascination with their music and traditions. I really dislike tokenism for the sake of political correctness, so when I decided to pair a work with Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony on a specific Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra concert, I wanted it to be a faithful and respectful tribute to the spirit and tradition of the Native American community.
I researched many different performers on the Internet, and felt that Joseph FireCrow would be able to best represent many kinds of performing arts, including indigenous flute and drums, story telling, and singing. When I told him about my desire to present an authentic Native American experience that was natural and illuminating for my audiences, he suggested Jim Cockey as the composer. After I spoke to Jim, I realized that he was as interested as I was in creating a truthful a work. I was immediately impressed because Jim’s first step before writing a single note was to go on a spiritual journey to learn more about the subject he was to portray in the music.
The end result was something that was a success on every level… musically, visually and spiritually. The orchestra performed the “Gift of the Elk” easily and quickly because everything was very idiomatic for them. I took the beautiful photographs that were given to us, and choreographed them into a slide show that brought the narration of the story to life. Although it took a tremendous amount of time and effort by the entire creative team, the result was an overwhelmed audience that still speaks today of that innovative and moving experience.
- Jung-Ho Pak