For their final season concert, the Northwest Repertory Singers are returning to a program last performed nine years ago that unites Western classical music with Native American arts. “Song of the Salish Chief,” a cantata for narrator, choir and ensemble, is just part of a concert Saturday that includes drummers and dancers from both the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and Chief Leschi School in Puyallup.
“Song of the Salish Chief” was written in 1986 by Canadian composer Peter Berring for the centennial of Vancouver, British Columbia, and is scored for narrator, choir, piano, flute, double bass and a plethora of percussion. The text is based on a 1954 radio play by Earl Birney, evoking the life of the Salish people from pre-settler days through the rise and domination of white people. An old man narrates his people’s story, from joyful potlatches and hunts to the sadness of his nation’s fall. Berring, an accomplished jazz musician, combines syncopated rhythms with soft harmonies, word painting and a chantlike feel to support the poetry. Narrating the Chief will be Cowlitz elder and retired Methodist minister the Rev. Roy Wilson, who performed it with the choir in 2007 and is now 89 years old.
“Roy is still vibrant and commanding in his presentation and eager to perform this amazing work with us,” said choir director Paul Schultz.
The concert also includes “Earth Drum Dance” with recorders and drummers, “Cherokee Traveler’s Greeting” by Kevin Memley and “Mi’kmaq Honour Song” by Lydia Adams.
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Song of the Salish Chief
Who: Northwest Repertory Singers directed by Paul Schultz, the Rev. Roy Wilson, Cowlitz Indian Tribe and Chief Leschi drummers and dancers
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday (preconcert lecture and poetry 6:30 p.m.).
Where: Mason United Methodist Church, 2710 N. Madison St., Tacoma.
Tickets: $18 general; $15 senior, student; free for under-12.
Information: 253-265-3042, nwrs.org.