The Legend of Spirit Island (Euphonium Solo)

The Legend of Spirit Island was commissioned by the Twin Ports Wind Orchestra, Duluth, Minnesota (Mark Whitlock, conductor) to honour euphonium player, Dick Carlson, a founding member of the orchestra. Dick Carlson gave the premiere, conducted by the composer, in a concert on June 4th 2016 in the First Lutheran Church in Duluth. The concert marked Dick Carlson’s retirement and the piece was commissioned especially for him as a tribute to his years of service to the Twin Ports Wind Orchestra as a player, board member and president.

The piece is not programmatic, but takes its title from a local legend concerning Spirit Island, which lies in a widening of the St. Louis River called Spirit Lake, very close to Duluth. The legends tells of Chaska, the son of a Dakota Chief, who accidentally entered Ojibwe territory while hunting and encountered Wetona, the daughter of Ojibwe Chief Buckado. He was handsome, she beautiful; soon they were in love.

The Dakota planned a surprise attack on the Ojibwe, prompting the lovers to flee to a small island on the river. After the battle, Buckado rewarded one of his warriors, Gray Fox, by offering him Wetona’s hand in marriage. When it was discovered that Chaska and Wetona had run off, Buckado became angry, vowing that his daughter would not marry a Dakota. A party of Ojibwe warriors saw a light on the island, paddled over to it, and found Wetona’s canoe beached there. But there was no trace of the lovers, just two pair of moccasins; the lovers were never found. Since then the island has been known as Spirit Island.