Following the Sacred Sun – Suite for Chamber Ensemble
I. Anticipation – Traveling to St. Louis
II. Arrival in France
III. Lullaby for a Lost Child
IV. Looking for a Homeland
Flute, Clarinet, Horn, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Percussion
Following the Sacred Sun is a four-movement suite that follows the adventures of Sacred Sun or Mi-Ho’n-Ga, (1809? – 1836?), an eighteen-year-old young woman who left her Osage fur-trapping family and friends in Saline county, central Missouri, to travel to France. She was a beautiful woman, and the French embraced her and her fellow Osage travelers. Lauded and treated royally, she stayed in luxury hotels, ate rich and exotic foods and attended French operas arriving in fancy carriages. As the French tastes turned to other exoticisms, the Osage people along with their manager became destitute. Sacred Sun had twin daughters that were born in Belgium, and she gave one away to a wealthy Belgium woman. The Osage spent the next few years traveling in Europe. Fortunately, when the Marquis de Lafayette, French hero of the American Revolutionary War, heard about Sacred Sun and her Osage companions, he sent them back to America. When she returned to St. Louis in 1830, her tribe had moved to the Oklahoma territory near Fort Gibson.
Following the Sacred Sun celebrates the individual voice and unique culture of Sacred Sun and the Osage people through a narrative musical composition, telling her story and trying to correct possible misunderstandings and commodification of native cultures. Her story is told through a mosaic of music, recognizing her contributions as unique as well as acknowledging her own tribal customs. With this music we hope to raise awareness of the rich cultural contributions of American Indian women to Missouri’s history and culture. The purpose of the music is not to speak for a native culture or tradition, but through music, to celebrate the undervalued achievements of native voices.
The music is inspired by the life of Sacred Sun, a unique and daring woman who had experiences and opportunities in Europe beyond her wildest dreams, and then returned to her Osage tribe that were forcibly displaced from Missouri and exiled to Oklahoma. The goal is to recognize Sacred Sun as seen through the empathetic eyes and heart of a composer who lives over 200 years later and admires Sacred sun’s strength and courage to embark on a journey which today would be analogous to traveling to a nearby moon or planet.
I. Anticipation – Traveling to St. Louis expresses the excitement of these courageous men and women on a journey to St. Louis and then on to France; the tragedy of losing the furs that would pay for their trip when their boat capsized; and the determination to restock their furs and continue with their travel plans.
II. Arrival in France portrays the glitter of Paris, seeing new and wondrous things and places, and experiencing new music such as a waltz and exhilarating dance rhythms.
III. Lullaby for a Lost Child conveys the deep grief of leaving one of her twins in a strange land and handing her baby over to an unknown fate with restless harmonies and searing melodies.
IV. Looking for a Homeland as the tribe traveled to Oklahoma has conflicting emotions of anger, agitation, and sadness at being forced to leave their homes, grief at leaving the dead and dying along the way, the anxiousness and uncertainty of a new place, resignation that life as they knew it is gone, and the faint hope of survival as they neared their new home.
Following the Sacred Sun – Suite for Chamber Ensemble was commissioned by and dedicated to the American Wild Ensemble’s septet of flute, clarinet, horn, violin, viola, cello, and percussion, and was presented by Missouri State University, and led by faculty members Daniel Ketter and Emlyn Johnson. It was performed in celebration of the Missouri Bicentennial on a statewide concert tour in fall 2021, including performances in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia.