I sat in on a rehearsal of "Triumph" on Wednesday night. "Spectacle" is the word for it, with dramatic lighting adding to the visual action of four Navajo and two "modern" dancers.
One particularly exciting image comes early on, before the Navajo dancers are seen, with the silhouette of a winged figure doing the "Eagle Dance" projected onto the back wall. Another nice moment - though you won't see it at the concert - came when one of the Benally family dancers came out holding her baby as she rehearsed her steps.
Trying to get the balances right gave conductor Randy Fleischer the fits, and he stopped the rehearsal several times to ask for changes in amplification; however I could hear most parts fairly well toward the back of the ground floor. There's a lot of miking in the piece, to help the singers, Indian drums and R. Carlos Nakai's Indian flute compete with maybe the biggest orchestra I've ever seen on the Atwood stage.
Personally I preferred the traditional singing to Fleischer's dramatic orchestral score, which seemed to lack the melody of the chants; but maybe I've just been in Alaska too long. I have no doubt that, if everything ends as planned, the audience will be leaping to its feet to cheer and clap.
Local percussionist Steve Alvarez sent additional details on the piece on Thursday. The e-mail describes "Triumph," accurately, I think, as "a collaborative effort; Fleischer wrote it in close consultation with Nakai and the Benallys, all concerned the cultural aspects of the work be represented appropriately."
The big tribal drum Alvarez plays in the piece, for instance, was set up with a traditional blessing and ceremony. Fleischer himself was concerned that such formalities be carefully observed, Alvarez told me.