Cape Symphony’s ‘Mayflower’ concerts add Wampanoag stories and social change
Cape Symphony Artistic Director Jung-Ho Pak calls what will happen at this weekend’s concerts “the most highly-envisioned program I have ever created.”
He talks about “Mayflower and Beyond,” a postponed concert commemorating the 400th anniversary of the pilgrim’s arrival which finally takes place.
A lot has happened since the original concert dates in November 2020. Not just the pandemic, but Black Lives Matter and the related racial calculus, a polarizing election, and lots of inventories across the country – not just in arts organizations.
Pak knew he needed to deepen the meaning of the program.
“We are now in the midst of an incredible evolution,” he said. “The real discussion of pilgrims is coming to the fore, and it is provoking an astonishing analysis.
“But I don’t think it’s happening fast enough in the classical arts,” he says. “We can no longer look at social change and pretend that the arts are allowed to get a pass, in terms of questioning.”
How does classical music integrate social change and diversify its cultural roots?
This program asks the question: how does classical music – with deep roots in the history of Eurocentric art of white men – integrate social change and diversify its cultural roots?
In response, Pak mixed “Mayflower” and “Wampanoag: Stories for All Time” by Alex Berko, composed by Tonya Wind Singer, with “#elijah”, starring violinist Randall Goosby.
“Wampanoag”, performed with singer / storyteller Jonathan James Perry, tells the stories of the indigenous people who have lived here for centuries. “#Elijah”, composed by John Wineglass, pays tribute to Elijah McClain, a young violinist killed in a clash with the police in 2019. Dvorak’s New World Symphony completes the program.
“The first part is a triptych,” says Pak, “from Mayflower to Wampanoag to Elijah McClain. It’s an ark, a thirst for freedom to be respected and cherished. It’s like an American album in three movements, to remind to people what we cherish.
Choosing to do this type of gig, he said, “isn’t because of BLM or the #MeToo movement. I believe our society wants to be better. I believe that America can not only be a refuge, but also have opportunities and ideas. Art is one of the few ambassadors.
“Wampanoag” and “Mayflower” were co-commissions with the Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra, which will perform both works in January.
Steven Karidoyanes, conductor of the Plymouth Philharmonic, stressed that the focus on Mayflower “isn’t on pilgrims, it’s on democracy,” Pak said. “The Mayflower Compact was a declaration of autonomy. Autonomy was a radical idea. “
The piece “Wampanoag” was designed as “a counterweight,” he says. “But then COVID struck. And after the BLM happened, it changed the focus (of the concert) of the Pilgrim’s story to the current state of America and what we appreciate. “
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Putting together a work that reexamines the pilgrim’s past, with tales of indigenous peoples, then exploring new ideas with a rising violin virtuoso like Goosby, finds the balance, says Pak, whom he sought.
“It’s anti-classical, anti-prejudice, meant to shock people who have come here with preconceived ideas about classical music,” he says.
“I worked in administration and in the faculty rooms. I saw the belly of the beast, ”Pak says of his own profession. “It’s not inspiring. Most organizations are concerned with the survival and satisfaction of a small nucleus.
“If you look at the people we admire, Beethoven or Verdi, these are composers who have strived to achieve a bigger goal, to change the world around them. We lost that.
Pak takes a different direction.
“I don’t just like giving concerts,” says Pak, “I like giving experiences. To change the mentalities. This concert is a perfect example.
What: Cape Symphony’s “Mayflower and Beyond”
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday
Or: Barnstable High School Performing Arts Center, 744 W. Main St., Hyannis
Tickets and information:capesymphony.org or 508 362-1111.