Acclaimed composer and violist, Kenji Bunch (photo courtesy of the Grant Park Music Festival).
The Grant Park Music Festival has announced the world premiere performances of composer/violist Kenji Bunch’s Native American-themed Symphony No. 3: Dream Songs. A song cycle scored for full orchestra and chorus, Dream Songs will be conducted by Maestro Carlos Kalmar with the Grant Park chorus led by chorus director Christopher Bell. Dream Songs, 33 minutes, is part of the Festival’s Mozart and Shostakovich program, Friday, June 19 at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday, June 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion of Chicago’s Millennium Park.
Kenji Bunch will also lead a special, free Brown Bag Lunch lecture about Dream Songs during a break at the 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. open rehearsal, Friday, June 19, approximately 12 noon, in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion seating bowl. Bunch will also join Chicago-based journalist Ronald Litke in a public discussion about his work Friday at 5:30 and Saturday at 6:15 as part of Club 615, Grant Park Music Festival’s free, pre-concert lecture series in Millennium Park’s Family Fun Tent.
“In 1879, the Smithsonian Institution created the Bureau of American Ethnology, an ambitious field research program to preserve a record of the native cultures decimated by a century of brutal state-sponsored oppression and terror,” Kenji Bunch said of the origins of his world premiere work. “Ethnomusicologists and anthropologists working for the BAE spent months at a time on Native American reservations, painstakingly recording and notating tribal folk songs and translating their uncredited texts and poetry. Abstracted from their original voices and ceremonial use, these terse, plain-spoken texts offer timeless wisdom and emotional insights that feel hauntingly relevant in today’s precarious times.”
“Dream Songs is a song cycle scored for full orchestra and chorus adapted from these translations, particularly the work of Frances Densmore. I organized the eight songs of the cycle into three parts: Songs of Anxiety and Unrest; Songs of War and Its Aftermath; and, ultimately, Prayer of Healing,” Bunch explained.
Symphony No. 3: Dream Songs was commissioned by the Grant Park Music Festival with funds from the Prince Prize for Commissioning Original Work, which was awarded to Kenji Bunch and the Grant Park Music Festival in 2014. Additional support has been provided by Joyce Saxon and the Festival's New Works Fund.
Born in Portland, Oregon in 1973, Benji Bunch studied at the Juilliard School in New York, where he received his undergraduate degree in viola (1995) and his master’s degree in viola and composition (1997). From 1998 to 2000, Bunch was Composer-in-Residence for Young Concert Artists, Inc., composing two works for members of the YCA roster during his tenure; during the 2003-2004 season, he served a two-week residency with the Mobile Symphony under the auspices of the “Music Alive” program of Meet the Composer and the League of American Orchestras. Bunch has received commissions from noted ensembles and artists like the English Chamber Orchestra, St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, Zoom! Festival of New Music, Collegium Novum-Zurich and the Omaha Symphony. Bunch’s music has been performed widely, broadcast on NPR, BBC and German and Korean national television, and recorded on the EMI Classics, Pony Canyon, Kleos Classics and Helicon labels.
Lawn seating for Grant Park Music Festival concerts is free and open to the public. This year, for the first time, the Grant Park Music Festival offers single night passes for reserved seats to any festival concert. For more information about the Benji Bunch world premiere or about GPMF programming, call 312-742-7647 or visit gpmf.org.
Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts
Grant Park Music Festival to Premiere Kenji Bunch's Native American-Themed Dream Songs