Anthony Davis and Joy Harjo's How Bright the Sunlight Premieres with the Eastman Philharmonia
Dec. 22, 2022
On December 5, the Eastman School of Music presented the world premiere of Anthony Davis’s How Bright the Sunlight, a work for symphony orchestra and narrator, with a libretto curated by Joy Harjo, the first Native American US Poet Laureate. The narration is based on both the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address and Harjo’s poem, Thanksgiving in a Time of War and Confusion.
Timothy Long conducted the Eastman Philharmonia in the world premiere as part of Eastman’s ongoing Centennial celebration. Notably, Harjo and Long are citizens of the Muscogee Nation, and Davis is a Native American descendant. How Bright the Sunlight is a symphonic work written and presented by Indigenous performers as “a gift to the Haudenosaunee people,” showcasing a narrator of Indigenous heritage to represent the original inhabitants of that land. The composer explained:
"While I was researching and writing my opera Wakonda’s Dream (2007), which is about the Ponca Tribe, I was very touched by Native American ideology and culture, so I was very excited to be approached to write this piece.” He notes, “Joy’s narration is about the relationship of man and nature from the Native American perspective. Each of the elements around us – the woods, birds, animals, thunder – is described with a different kind of music. It ends with a blessing and thanksgiving.”
Joy Harjo noted:
"What an honor to celebrate the cultural legacy of the Haudenosaunee peoples of the Eastman community with this commission,” says Joy Harjo. She continues, “With the mastery of Anthony Davis we are reminded that no matter the twists and turning of human history, we are one. We are reminded to remember who we are as human beings, to remember that we are one.”
How Bright the Sunlight was commissioned by the Howard Hanson Institute for American Music in Celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Eastman School of Music, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.
To learn more about Anthony Davis, visit: schott-music.com.
How Bright the Sunlight (2022)
libretto by Joy Harjo
for narrator, solo contrabass, and orchestra
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