As is the case with any musician, true talent lies in the ability of the performer to connect with his instrument, making it the voice through which he communicates. Cheyenne flutist Joseph FireCrow is exceptionally talented at doing just this, using his handmade instruments as tools for telling stories and interpreting nature. This weekend, Vineyarders will get the chance to experience the musical talents and Native American knowledge of Mr. FireCrow at a one-time-only concert.
Co-sponsors of the event, Wendy Taucher Dance Opera Theater, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), and the Aquinnah Cultural Center, have brought the Grammy awardwinning musician to the Vineyard for a performance and a demonstration.
The solo concert will take place at the Aquinnah Town Hall on Saturday, July 9, at 6:30. Mr. FireCrow will give a brief introduction to each song before either playing one of his many handmade flutes or singing in his native tongue while accompanying himself on drums and rattles. The vocal numbers will be translated into English for the audience.
“There is nothing ceremonial about what I’ll be doing,” Mr. FireCrow said in a phone interview. “I’ll do some traditional-style music as well as a more contemporary style.”
The Native American flute has a very unique sound, sometimes emulating animals and nature, and always providing a very soulful and spiritual listening experience. Mr. FireCrow describes his music as “very meditative. It’s elemental and very relaxing.”
“There’s a strong message of respect and love,” Mr. FireCrow said. “You’re connected to everything around you, from the animals to the earth to one another.”
Mr. FireCrow started playing the Native American flute when he was 18 years old. Before that, his chosen instrument was the trumpet. His prior musical education had included learning to read and write music. The Montana native brings that skill and background to his songwriting and playing.
Growing up on a Northern Cheyenne reservation in Montana, Mr. FireCrow learned to make flutes from his uncles and his elders. He was inspired to start performing and recording by his mentors and others who helped spread the music beyond the Native American community.
Mr. FireCrow is now recognized as one of the world’s top Native American flute players. He has released eight solo albums and won numerous awards including a Grammy, seven Native American Music Awards, and a Telly award.
Ms. Taucher was introduced to Mr. FireCrow’s music while working on a new pre-Broadway musical called “Distant Thunder.”
“Aside from really knowing the historical background, he’s an amazing musician when stacked up against anybody, which is why I got interested in him,” Ms. Taucher said. (The upcoming concert is one of three Vineyard events that Ms. Taucher is producing this summer.)
“I think with any great artist, you get drawn into another world that didn’t exist before,” Ms. Taucher said. “It’s a real pleasure when you listen to Joseph play. You’re right there in the music. You’re not doing anything else.”
The history and storytelling aspects of Mr. FireCrow’s performances are as much a part of the concert experience as the music itself. “I’ll give a little background,” Mr. FireCrow said. “I’ll let you know what the song is about. I sing in my native tongue, but I’ll translate into English. The information is really important. I share personal stories from my childhood living on the reservation. I bring it close.
“The more you know about a certain cultural heritage, you have a better appreciation and understanding of the indigenous voice and music of the people.”
Joseph Firecrow lecture and demonstration: Wednesday, July 6, 4 to 5 pm. Aquinnah Cultural Center, Aquinnah. Free; donations welcome.
“Joseph Firecrow, Native American Flute Man Live in Concert: Saturday, July 9,” 6:30 to 8 pm.
Aquinnah Town Hall, Aquinnah. $15 general seating in advance ($20 at the door) or $50 reserved seating in advance ($55 at the door). For tickets and more information, visit wendytaucherdanceoperatheater.com/boxoffice-new.html.