There was harmony in the Shuká Hít.
Artists from different backgrounds and their international, multicultural music mingled in the cedar clan house in Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Walter Soboleff Building Saturday night for the Flutes From Around the World concert.
“We are so happy to have everyone here,” said SHI President Rosita Worl. “We are so honored to have this first-ever concert here.”
The event, which was a joint fundraiser for the Juneau Symphony and SHI, featured Tlingit flautist George Montero, Armenian flautist Tigran Arakelyan and Juneau flautists Reece Bleakley, Kathryn Kurtz and Ingrid White.
Worl said she was glad to have Western music in the space designed to emulate the ancestral homes of Alaska Natives. She shared her recollection of first hearing classical music as an adult and purchasing as many cassette tapes of it as she could find.
“We here in Juneau can lead by example with what we’re doing tonight,” Worl said. “We can show the rest of the world that we can live in harmony.”
The multicultural unity and collaboration stood in stark contrast to a video of teens jeering a Native American man that was gaining attention online over the weekend.
Worl said after the concert while she did not address it directly, the video was on her mind during her opening remarks.
“I was absolutely thinking about that,” Worl said “I really am proud of Juneau.”
The event began with a short performance by Montero, who carves and plays Native American flutes.
“Whether I have an audience of one or an audience of 3,000 it is a blessing,” Montero said. “I think anytime I go before anyone and play it’s huge. It’s sharing part of my heart.”
He said he was pleased to play with Arakelyan.
“I have some friends down here (in Seattle), and they said, ‘Oh my God George, you have hit another level to be playing with Tigran,’” Montero said in an interview ahead of the show.
Next up were Bleakley, White and Kurtz.
First Bleakley played a solo piece. Then she was joined by White for a Haydn duet. Finally, White and Kurtz played themes from Mozart’s “Magic Flute.”
Arakelyan was the night’s last scheduled performer.
He took the stage wearing a western Armenian vest and eastern Armenian Hat.
Arakelyan played an original composition as well as a handful of Armenian songs, including one that required what Arakelyan dubbed “Rock’n’Roll flute.” The technique involved singing while simultaneously playing the flute.
The flautist, conductor and music director from Seattle said he was encouraged to incorporate more flair into his flute playing when he wanted to emulate rocking flute players like Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull.
Arakelyan spoke highly of the intimate performance space.
“I just want to stay and play for a couple hours,” Arakelyan said. “Not only is the space beautiful, the acoustics are fantastic.”
Arakelyan’s time in Shuká Hít was extended by an impromptu collaboration with Montero that came about after the night’s performers had taken their bows.
While Montero danced and his wooden flute wailed, Arakelyan worked to find the complimentary space in between notes and harmonize his Western instrument with Montero’s Native one.
“That was hard,” Arakelyan said after their spontaneous duet ended. “I learned a lot.”
While the Shuká Hít Series: Flutes From Around the World concert was the first of its kind, it is hoped there will be more, similar events.
“Let’s make this evening grow for all of us,” Worl said.
• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenHohenstatt.