Olympia Youth Chorus voices 'Cherish the Earth'

Chorus performs Native American songs

March 25, 2011 

  • OLYMPIA YOUTH CHORUS

    What: The Olympia Youth Chorus performs its “Cherish the Earth” concert

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday

    Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. S.E., Olympia

    Tickets: Range from $10 for children to $22 for adults. Reserve by calling 360-753-8585.

    Information: www.olympiayouthchorus.org

Young voices will rise in harmony to honor native peoples and their reverence for the Earth in a concert next weekend.

Olympia Youth Chorus will perform songs with texts translated from Indian tribes, and in a few cases, songs incorporating the original tribal languages, said chorus co-founder and artistic director Cynthia Dinsmore.

In one song, the young performers will make the sounds of the wolf, loon and owl. It’s the “Mi’kmaq (pronounced mick-mack) Honour Song,” sung in the words of the Mi’kmaq tribe from the northeastern United States and Canada.

“It’s one of their traditional songs to honor the animals of their portion of the Earth,” said Dinsmore, who’s also the chorus director at Capital High School in Olympia. “It’s a really wonderful piece, very haunting. I think it’s going to be well received. It’s not something that people can understand necessarily, but they’ll understand the feeling it leaves them with.”

This is the 16th year for the chorus, whose 130 members come from the greater Thurston County area, including Centralia and Shelton. Singers must audition, and, when selected, practice once a week. Performers are divided by age into four choirs. The older choirs travel, and are planning a trip to Vienna this summer.

Cantabile is for eighth- through 12th-grade girls, while the other groups have boys and girls. Coro Voce is for sixth- through eighth-graders; Bel Canto, for third- through fifth-graders; and Dolce, for kindergartners through second-graders.

The theme of the upcoming concert was Dinsmore’s idea. “We have so much emphasis in our culture on the Earth, and preserving the Earth … that I wanted to do something that related to that, as well as the fact we live in a community that has quite a Native American history,” she said.

While most of the concert selections relate to native people’s reverence for the land, not all numbers originated from tribes.

“Great Spirit,” for instance, was written by Swedish composer Ivo Antognini. The words are in English, translated from a Canadian tribe’s text.

There also is a Cherokee version of “Amazing Grace,” a Brazilian rain forest chant, and texts from Pacific Northwest and Navajo tribes.

Dinsmore found the numbers by querying choral directors via choralnet.org. People suggested titles, which Dinsmore researched and purchased. She had hoped to include a Native American group in the performance, but wasn’t able to arrange for one to appear.

The selections are a welcome challenge for the chorus.

“I actually think they’ve had a good time with it. It’s been so different and unusual for them that it’s a stretch,” said Dinsmore, who also directs Cantabile. “Our kids are accommodating and willing to try new things. … I like to see them rise to that challenge.”

Debby Abe: 253-597-8694 debby.abe@thenewstribune.com

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