Songs of Native Alaskans explored in free lecture


Back in 1954, schoolteacher John Coray made the first audio record of Dena'ina song and speech. Fifty years later, his son, Craig, wrote a companion book to accompany the publishing of the recording. The Adams State College Music and History, Government, Philosophy Departments will host a free lecture by Craig Coray, "Dnaghelt'ana Qut'ana K'eli Ahdelyax: Songs of the Inland Dena'ina of Southwest Alaska", at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1, in McDaniel Hall (formerly the ES Building) room 101.

Dr. Carol Guerrero-Murphy, Adams State professor of English, considers Coray a good friend. She said the powerful and beautiful rhythms and poetry of these ancient songs are not to be missed. "If you have dreamed of visiting Alaska--or have in fact spent time there--this music transports you there."

Eager to share his knowledge and love of northern indigenous music, Coray lectures at public schools, native villages, universities, and conferences. Coray, a music instructor, ethnomusicologist, and composer from Anchorage, Alaska, recently retired from the University of Alaska Anchorage, where he taught courses in theory, piano, and northern indigenous music.

The John Coray recording features twenty-six songs in five languages including three rare dialects, this audio collection emerges as a remarkable celebration of Native culture in southwest Alaska, made at a time when informed elders were still connected to old customs that have since disappeared.

In 1995 Craig Coray was the recipient of a commission from the Kennedy Center and National Symphony Orchestra to write a new work for small ensemble. A recurrent theme in his work has been the use of Alaska Native songs as thematic material, stemming from his early childhood in Alaskan villages where his father collected songs of the native people. His compositions have been widely concertized by UAA pianist Timothy Smith and the ensemble Alaska Pro Musica.

Coray is the chief author and editor of the publication "Dnaghelt'ana Qut'ana K'eli Ahdelyax (They Sing the Songs of Many Peoples)", published by Kijik Corporation in 2007.