Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pass Chorale to sing songs first sung centuries ago in the San Gorgonio Pass

BANNING — Every spring, the Pass Chorale performs a great classical work, accompanied by a full orchestra. This year, the Chorale is adding different classics to its May 17 concert: traditional American Indian music, including songs from the region’s Cahuilla and Serrano nations.

It’s a natural progression for the Pass Chorale artistic director, Ernest H. Siva of Banning. Siva, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education and choral music from the University of Southern California, also is a Cahuilla and Serrano elder and a longtime culture bearer. He often shares traditional Indian songs with others as leader of the nonprofit Dorothy Ramon Learning Center, which saves and shares Southern California’s American Indian cultures, languages, history and music and other traditional arts.

Siva likes to tell the Chorale concert audiences that great music is like architecture, each composition to be savored in its details and artistry. The two dozen members of the Chorale, who hail from across Inland Southern California, have been practicing more than four months for this year’s planned performance of “Harmony Mass” by Franz Joseph Haydn. Siva’s wife, June, who sings soprano, said, “As the name implies, this Mass for soloists, chorus and orchestra is full of wonderful melodies and harmonies.” The Chorale plans performing this seldom-performed classical work as a special tribute to the famous Austrian composer on the 200th anniversary of his death in 1809.

The program’s second half will feature music that is older — much older. The Chorale will perform songs of American Indians of the Southwest, especially the local Cahuilla and Serrano nations. These include songs that teach, such as the “Little Bear Song” of the Serrano, and lullabies such as the Cahuilla, “Coyote’s Waiting,” sung in their original Indian languages.

These traditional songs from the First Cultures were among the music first heard in Inland Southern California countless years ago. Director Siva also arranged two songs, a Zuni Sunrise Song and a Cahuilla Bird Song, as anthems. The original versions of both will be sung first. No matter that his “tribal regalia” at the concert will be his Chorale director’s tuxedo. Siva said he sees an opportunity for all to share and enjoy this traditional music, part of our national heritage.

The concert is planned for Sunday, May 17, 2009, 2:30 pm at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, 1320 W. Williams St., Banning, CA 92220. Tickets are adults, $15; seniors and students, $10; proceeds help support the concert expenses, organizers said.

For more information call Ernest Siva, 951-849-4676, or e-mail siva@dishmail.net. The Pass Chorale is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that has been sharing great music since the 1950s with audiences of all ages. The full orchestra that joins the Chorale in its winter and spring concerts is comprised of professional musicians from throughout Southern California.

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