S2, E10: “Shell Shaker: A Chickasaw Opera, Jerod Impichchaachaaha Tate, Chickasaw Composer”

“Chickasaw legend tells of a girl who is teased by other children and named Loksi’—Turtle—for her slowness. Upon the counsel of a river, she goes to live in the forest. There, she finds hospitality among the turtle people. One day, the god of the turtles asks her to tell her fellow humans to treat turtles with respect and kindness, and gives her a gift of turtle shells filled with pebbles and seeds to bring back with her. The rattles were adopted by the people of Loksi’ and used to accompany dances and ceremonies, a reminder to treat the natural world with care.”*

As a former opera singer with a music degree, I’m ecstatic about today’s Native ChocTalk episode! Here we have something unprecedented - an opera in an American Indian language (Chickasaw), by an American Indian Composer (Jerod Impichchaachaaha Tate), and we all should be celebrating this enormous breakthrough in Native arts!

This Maestro is busy at work as this is just the first of three operas in the works. I hear the second will be in Cherokee, about Sequoyah.

Whether or not you’re an opera fan, you WILL enjoy this Chickasaw work of art. In fact, if you’re in the audience, you’ll notice supertitles (translations) will be provided, so be able to understand, even if you don’t speak Chickasaw.

In this episode, Jerod discusses with me (like the music nerds we are):
• How there aren’t yet rules established around the differences between spoken and sung Chickasaw. (In traditional operas with languages such as French and Italian, etc., there are rules around the spoken vs sung language.)
• The challenges around composing in a difficult language, paired with an extremely demanding genre such as opera, to complete a work that has never been attempted before. This requires a modern Chickasaw speaker (Joshua Hinson) who interprets and translates the words into text, as well as a Dramateur/Librettest (libretto = the wording in an opera), Lyla Palmer, partnering with a Composer such as Jerod who has vision and determination to see this opera to fruition. And voila – you now have something unique and beautiful.
• Jerod’s time as Instructor for the Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy, teaching composition to Native American high school students such as for the Lummi, Hopi and Navajo
• Jerod’s role as both father and artistic trail blazer.

Stay tuned for upcoming announcements, as this opera is slated for November of 2022 at UMass Amherst!

Three cheers for these talented folks, as well as the singers!
• Jerod Impichchaachaaha Tate: Composer
• Tianhui Ng: Conductor
• Lokosh (Josh Hinson): Interpreter/Translator
• Margaret Wheeler: Costume Design

Find and follow Jerod Tate here:
• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jerodtatecomposer
• Website: https://jerodtate.com/

Bravo, Jerod. Bravo!


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