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Eugene Friesen Music

 

GRASSLANDIA
for The Paul Winter Consort
(saxophone, cello and percussion), orchestra, choir, narrator, masked characters and dancers
by Eugene Friesen (Orchestrations by David Spear)

Grasslandia is a one-hour concert work for orchestra, choir, narrator and instrumental soloists. Drawing on literature set in various grassland regions of the world (Australia, the savanna of Africa, the steppes of Mongolia, and particularly the American prairie) the piece features the recorded sounds of creatures such as the African elephant, the buffalo, coyote and prairie chicken. The narration includes humor, descriptive language, Native American story and earth science.

Grasslandia begins with Coyote (a comical masked character in grey fur and black high-top sneakers) making his way through the symphony orchestra in a parody of the first humans in the tallgrass, and ends with the rhythmic uniting of Black Elk’s mighty prayer, “Paint the Earth on Me,” with the hymn, “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.” In between are musical features for the Consort soloists, large-scale ensemble pieces, accompanied narration, traditional Native American music scored for the soloists, orchestra and choir (including the traditional “Eagle Dance”) and a healthy dose of comic relief by an assortment of masked characters in the guise of prairie creatures.

Grasslandia was commissioned by a consortium of three, Cowley County Community College in Arkansas City, Kansas, The Salina Arts and Humanities Commission in Salina, Kansas, and the Fairfield Symphony in Norwalk, Connecticut. The piece was premiered in 1997 at the Flint Hills Music Festival in Winfield, Kansas and given a second performance at the Smoky Hill River Festival in Salina, conducted by Gary Gackstatter.

In 2006, Grasslandia was performed at Symphony in the Flint Hills by the Paul Winter Consort with the Kansas City Symphony and Chorus under the direction of Tim Hankewich.

 

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