Sun Songs for Soprano, English horn, Cello, Piano


The 3 texts for Sun Songs come from translated and interpreted text of the North American Native Americans. I thought these three texts fit together well in telling a story of honoring the sun and nature for what it does, from bringing beautiful colors to the sky to giving us food and life.

Duration: 17 minutes
Instrumentation: Soprano, English Horn, Cello, Piano
Movements: 1





Premiere with Tony Arnold-soprano, Ryan Zwahlen-English horn, David Mergen-cello, Jeanette Louise Yaryan-piano.  Highways in Santa Monica – February 2013.

The text for Sun Songs comes from translated and interpreted texts of the North American Native Americans. Three different groups are represented – the Nootka, or Nuu-chah-nulth, indigenous peoples who live on the seaward coast of Vancouver Island, Canada and the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state, the Papago Indians (or the Tohono O’odham Indians) of Arizona and the Sonoran Desert, and the Havasupai People of the Grand Canyon.  These various texts were said to be used in ceremonies to bring good weather, to ask the sun and the rain to help grow the land, and to call upon the powers of nature.

By opting for these renditions of the texts, poems, and narratives attributed to indigenous people of North America, it is acknowledged that they merely capture the essence of Native American songs, language, and stories as interpreted by ethnologists, musicologists, and anthropologists seeking to safeguard the legacy of indigenous cultures during a period of rapid cultural erosion in America. Although these interpretations may not be wholly precise, my aim is to bring together these texts in reverence of the indigenous peoples who were the initial custodians of the land and persist in imparting invaluable lessons on cherishing the Earth. We ought to glean wisdom from their teachings on gratitude and stewardship of the land, striving to embody these principles before it’s too late to save our planet.

This work was commissioned for the 10th anniversary of Definiens, a new music ensemble in Los Angeles, California.  Joined by soprano Tony Arnold, it was premiered in February 2013 at the Idyllwild Arts Academy in Idyllwild, California, and at Highways in Santa Monica, California.

Song to bring fair weather (Nootka)

You, whose day it is, make it beautiful.
Get out your rainbow colors.
So it will be beautiful.

Song to pull down the clouds (Papago)

At the edge of the world
It is growing light.
Up rears the light.
Just yonder the day dawns.
Spreading over the night.

A Prayer (Havasupai)

Sun, my relative
Be good coming out
Do something god for us.

Make me work,
So I can do anything in the garden
I hoe, I plant corn, I irrigate.

You, sun, be god going down at sunset
We lay down to sleep I want to feel good.

While I sleep you come up.
Go on your course many times.
Make good things for us (men).

Make me always the same as I am now.

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