Wood River Valley residents are blessed. Every weekend another wonderful, imported cultural experience is available to us, from a production of a classic Shakespearean play to a cello concert performed in an intimate setting by a world famous Israeli cellist. This weekend, however, the valley can enjoy an authentically Idaho treat: the world premiere performance of director Dick Brown and the Caritas Chorale's "Immence Ranges of High Mountains."
Brown commissioned the piece especially for his Wood River Valley choir. Enlisting Boise-born composer David Alan Earnest and Idaho author Diane Josephy Peavey, of Carey, to write the libretto, Brown's vision was to create a classical work that celebrates the spirit of Lewis and Clark's journey through Idaho. And they have succeeded.
The piece has seven movements. The one hundred plus voices of the Caritas Chorale, led by soprano Katherine Edison singing the part of Sacajawea, will be accompanied by a full orchestra, comprised primarily of members of the Boise Philharmonic.
This ensemble, under the masterful baton of Brown, will lead you through a musical narrative of the Corps of Discovery's arduous and harrowing 19th century journey through this magnificent state. But this is not a narrative lifted from fourth-grade history books. Peavey's words hypothesize Sacajawea's experiences. The piece is threaded with the swirling contradiction of who and what exactly was found by this expedition and who or what was ultimately lost.
Opening with the words "Listen, listen carefully" pronounced in Sacajawea's native language, Shoshoni, the first movement provokes introspection and invites listeners to cast away their preconceived notions of the Corps' accomplishments. Earnest's music is sweeping and haunting, with an undeniable influence of Native American rhythms.
The second movement, "Remembering," is a look at the country that the explorers traveled through, and Lewis' "moment of wonder and moment of despair" as he stands at Lemhi Pass and contemplates the "immence ranges of high mountains" that are spread out before him, blocking his path to the ocean.
The third movement, "Reunion," details Sacajawea's meetings with her Shoshoni people on the Lemhi River. The fourth movement, "The Search," is the exploration of possible water and desert routes by Clark and Lewis, respectively, and their agonizing realization that these are too treacherous to travel. In the fifth movement, Sacajawea recalls the harrowing trip through the Bitterroot Mountains.
The sixth movement is a brief synopsis of the journey to the Pacific and back. Brief, because as Peavey said, "We're not about Washington!"
The final movement is "The Future," in which Sacajawea contemplates the joy of her fellow travelers at the completion of their mission, with wary reflection. She, Lewis and Clark know that the people they have met and the landscape through which they have traveled are forever changed by their footsteps. It is only Sacajawea, however, who senses the far-reaching implications for all Native Americans.
The world premiere of "Immence" will be on Saturday, May 21, at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum. The evening will include more than just Earnest's piece, however. "What the concert really is," explains Brown, "is a juxtaposition of the white man—the American attitude of manifest destiny of westward expansion more or less opposed to the Native American, and how it affected them.
"The first part of the program will include pieces that are associated with the expansion westward, American pioneer folk hymns, some experts from Aaron Copland's 'The Tender Land,' stuff that is very American. Then the last part of the concert will be the premiere of this piece, which is definitely from the point of view of the Native American."
Brown said the finished work is not necessarily what he had in mind when the idea for its creation struck him on the top of Lemhi Pass.
"I don't think it turned out the way any of us started off with it," he said. "In many ways, for me, it is even better. I didn't think I would be as emotionally involved with the story as I have become. Not only musically, but with the whole beauty of the story of this place that we live in."
A world premiere
The premiere performance of "Immence Ranges of High Mountains" takes place Saturday, May 21, at 5:30 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church or the Big Wood in Ketchum. An encore performance will be at 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 23.
At 6 p.m. Sunday, May 22, the piece will be presented at the Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Idaho Falls. Anam Cara, The Chamber Choir of Idaho, with members from Idaho Falls and the Wood River Valley, will participate with Caritas Chorale in performing this concert. Caritas concerts are free to the community, with donations gratefully accepted.
From June 8 through June 24, Caritas will take "Immence" on a tour of Europe. Approximately 50 Caritas singers will participate in the concert tour, which includes Tegernsee, Germany (Ketchum's sister city), Salzburg, Austria, and Venice and Florence, Italy.