James DeMars (1952 - ) has written works that frequently explore intercultural collaborations:
GUADALUPE: a bi-lingual opera in two acts (110’); winner of two 2015 Arizona Theater Awards for libretto and music.
"As the last notes faded I sat awestruck... this opera was a milestone in the history of contemporary music." Latino Perspectives
AN AMERICAN REQUIEM (75') for chorus, soloists & orchestra
"At the close of last night's premiere performance there could have been little doubt that James DeMars had met the standards of the death masses of Brahms and Britten; grand and spacious, stately, ethereal, glorious, inspired and quintessentially American, (it) speaks of untarnished dreams and naive yearnings; an intensely hopeful conjuration of all that is best about the nation's peoples." - Washington Post
TITO’S SAY, for chorus, soloists & orchestra: for soloists, poetry by Alberto Rios (25’)
"Four poems of skewed love set to pleasant and chatty music." - New York Times
NATIVE DRUMMING, two movements for the Black Lodge Pow-wow Singers & Orchestra (20’)
"...searingly honest, by turns mesmerizing, haunting, hair-raising and astonishing... just plain gorgeous in its sonics, with strings racing over the singer-drummers like a veil of night over the desert, and brass harmonies moving like sunlight across a mesa." - Arizona Republic
TWO WORLD CONCERTO for Native American flutist, R. Carlos Nakai (28’); winner of two Native American Music Awards.
"...on epic scale, sweepingly dramatic & rhythmically concise." Los Angeles Times
"...compelling... an ode to the unspoiled beauty of Minnesota lakes, forests and wildlife." Chicago Tribune
SABAR CONCERTO for African Drums & Orchestra for Mark Sunkett (22’)
"DeMars brings the orchestra into direct union with ritual music and dance from Senegal in a sonic travelogue, that was stunningly entertaining as well as culturally engaging." - Arizona Republic
A professor at Arizona State University's Herberger Institute, James DeMars has been composing classical works that look to African, Native American, and other cultures. This album features three orchestral pieces and two encores for the soloists, famous Native American flutist R. Carlos Nakai and the Black Lodge Singers and drummers. DeMars himself conducts the Canyon Symphony Orchestra. Far from merely an album of flute plus strings, Two World Concerto has been carefully crafted to accommodate the limitations of the Native American flute and Nakai's sensitive, smoothly flowing sound. DeMars uses orchestral Arabic scales to add to the exciting exotica and blend with the flute's pitch. Changes in tempo, atmospheric strings, majestic crescendos of sonorous horns, driving drums, gongs, rainstick, bell shaker, and other unusual percussion, and oboe, clarinet, and bassoon solos offer a rich tapestry of orchestral color and mood. Beauty, movement, and fire mark this bright concerto. The second piece is a simple, 5-minute aria for flute and orchestra; it is a gentle, peaceful song. Next, is a lively concerto for pow-wow drumming and singers. As in the traditional pow-wow, the proceedings begin with the entry of the dancers behind American (and often Canadian) flags; hence Native Drumming has Flag Song in its first part. It is based on a Blackfeet tune, put to 6/8 meter, and has a duet of horns at its conclusion. The second part, Destiny Song and Mask Dance, is passionate and powerful. We can almost see the 'fancy dancers' twisting and stomping. Shakers supplement the big pow-wow bass drum. The Sacred Mask Dance section, from the Keres Pueblo of New Mexico, is a departure from the pow-wow format. Algin Scabby Robe is the soloist against syncopated orchestral drums, shakers, and pizzicato strings. The conclusion brings back the pow-wow drumming and harmonic singers and the full brass section; all giving a final flourish. The first encore is Seasons by Robe and the Black Lodge Singers with pow-wow drum, without orchestra, as the song would be heard in gatherings. The last encore is with Nakai alone, playing a Zuni corn grinding song. The album thus is a tour de force fusion of classical orchestra and traditional Native American music. The recording cannot deliver the body-penetrating sound intensity of the pow-wow drum heard live, but these performances and writing will surely bring cheer to the listener. Classical music with melody and rhythms of indigenous people is not unusual in Latin America, and Peter Sculthorpe has done so in Australia, but only a small number of American composers have honored the original cultures of the nation. James DeMars is among the exceptions, and this album shines light on his efforts and on leading Native American musicians.