MSU holds concert in honor of missing and murdered Indigenous women

“Not One Sparrow Is Forgotten: Music from the Northern Plains” takes place Monday

On Monday, the Minot State University Concert Choir will be pairing with MSU Singers to present “Not One Sparrow Is Forgotten: Music from the Northern Plains” in Ann Nicole Nelson Hall at 7:30 p.m. The concert is in conjunction with the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls on May 5.

The theme of the spring concert came from Emerson Eads, Minot State assistant professor in music and director of choral activities, asking the choir to think about issues that were important in their lives that they felt strongly enough about to organize a spring concert around.

He chose to do this due to four indigenous Alaskan friends of his being wrongfully incarcerated for 18 years in his home state of Alaska. It changed his perspective on music and art.

“Music for music’s sake seems no longer viable to me in a world where justice does not serve everyone. While I know that not everyone shares my personal perspective with regard to art for art’s sake, I do wish the choral concerts that I present with the Minot State University Choirs to somehow shine a light on injustice, and be a voice for the voiceless,” Eads explained.

After asking his students to come up with something they were passionate about, he was approached by a few students for the same concern: the many missing and murdered indigenous men and women in both North Dakota and around the country.

“I was moved by their concern,” Eads said. “And, fortuitously, my home state senator, Senator Lisa Murkowski, rescued the Savanna Act, which North Dakota’s Senator Heidi Heitkamp had introduced, but was held up by one representative, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia. When I heard Alaska had joined forces with North Dakota to pass the Savannah Act, I knew we had to respond with song.”

Savanna’s Act is a bill that would require the Department of Justice to update the online data entry format for federal databases relevant to cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and men to include a new data field for users to input the victim’s tribal enrollment information or affiliation.

He went Annette Mennem, the Director of the Native American Center at MSU, and together they brainstormed ideas. He realized the concert fell during Holy Week and felt the perfect way to present the concert was to parallel the plight of the indigenous peoples with the journey that Jesus made to his crucifixion.

“There is a rich tradition of music written for Holy Week, and an equally beautiful folk music tradition here in the United States. My hope was to present a concert of Passion music written specifically for Holy Week in Renaissance Europe, interspersed with choral arrangements of American folk music that would serve as a modern day and English exegeses on the Latin poetry describing the suffering of Jesus,” Eads explained.

Mennem and Eads both hope that the passion concert will help shed light on the subject of injustice in both North Dakota and around the world.

“Perhaps just by singing together, we can create more spaces where empathy can abound,” said Eads.

U.S. senators Lisa Murkowski and Kevin Cramer will also be delivering video messages regarding the concert.

The concert is free and open to the public.

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