GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — Listening to “Guardians of the Grand Canyon,” it’s almost impossible to distinguish between the trilling of a flute and the winds that whistle through a side canyon the Havasupai Tribe calls home.
The sound of distant drums is sometimes the only evidence of humanity to be found in Brent Michael Davids’ composition honoring one of America’s last wild places.
Davids, along with three other flautists on traditional Native wood and clay flutes and a European flute, performed at the
Grand Canyon Visitor Center June 22 as part of a special performance of the Grand Canyon Music Festival. A member of the Stockbridge Munsee Community of Wisconsin, Davids was chosen in 2000 to compose a new work that would reflect the Grand Canyon community at the millennium. The piece he created, “Guardians of the Grand Canyon,” focuses on the indigenous people who have lived at the Grand Canyon for centuries.
Davids’ signature style is unique — most of his works feature instruments of his own design, including a quartz crystal flute. He also utilizes percussion instruments that can mimic natural sounds, chirping or whistling like birds or the winds.
In a Facebook post announcing the sunset performance at the park, Davids remarked that the familiar Grand Canyon Suite was limited to the physical attributes of the storied place.
“It makes no reference to the living beings who have long inhabited the Grand Canyon environment,” he wrote. “‘Guardians’ is an actual Havasupai Ram Dance composed into a modern piece of chamber music.”
36th annual Grand Canyon Music Festival
The Grand Canyon Music Festival will be returning to the park weekends Aug. 23 - Sept. 7. This year’s lineup will feature the Newman Oltman Guitar Duo along with returning favorites: the Bonfiglio Group, the Manhattan Chamber Players and the Grammy-winning Catalyst Quartet. School of Rock and the NACAP concert will also return this year.