Carpe Diem String Quartet and Leon Littlebird Weave Native American and Classical Music in New Work

May 25, 2017

An eagle bone whistle. A sacred rattle. A singing turtle. A “love flute.”

These are just a few of the ancient Native American instruments showcased in Anthem for the Ancestors, a new work for string quartet, Native American instruments, narrator and multimedia visual effects composed by Carpe Diem String Quartet violinist Charles Wetherbee and Native American performer and composer Leon Joseph Littlebird.

The musicians will perform Anthem for the Ancestors at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 27 and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 29 at Worthington’s McConnell Arts Center. They'll also host a free family concert with hands-on activities at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Anthem for the Ancestors combines European and Native American instruments to tell the story of the First People and their enduring legacy. Throughout the piece, the quartet musicians expand their traditional roles as violinists, violist and cellist and play a panoply of Native American instruments to create, with the help of amplification, a sound truly unlike any other.

“To combine indigenous instruments, some of which have over 10,000 years of history from their original design, with classical instruments is amazingly copacetic – they really work well together,” Littlebird said. “So it’s fun to really take them into this kind of an arrangement where we can really celebrate that music is the universal language.”

Littlebird and the musicians of the Carpe Diem String Quartet stopped by the Classical 101 studios this week to talk about how they came to collaborate on this innovative project. Watch this video of our conversation to learn more about Anthem for the Ancestors, hear Littlebird play the Native American instruments used in the piece and listen to the fun and fascinating stories about them.


Video produced by Emily Thompson

And for the full effect, watch this video of the February 2017 world premiere of Anthem or the Ancestors at the Atlas Black Box theater at the University of Colorado Boulder.