Composing in Denali

Inspiration for composers is everywhere at Denali National Park.

DENALI — Nine composers from around the world just returned this week from more than a week in the wilderness.

They began their journey at Denali National Park and then traveled to Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve for a few more days.

What they each personally experienced and then translated into music will be presented at a special concert by musicians with the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival at 7 p.m. Tuesday, at The Blue Loon, 2999 Parks Highway. The concert is called “Sounds of Nature: Alaskan Premieres.” Admission is $10.

This particular program, Composing In The Wilderness, is in its second year. Once again, it is sold out. It didn’t take long for composers from Sweden, Australia, Oregon, Texas, North Carolina and other states to sign on. The first year included international composers as well.

Denali’s park regulations limit the group size to 12 at most. In addition to the nine composers, the group includes class leader composer Stephen Lias, an Alaska Geographic guide, and a park researcher.

The class is sponsored by the arts festival and Alaska Geographic.

According to the composers themselves, there is no other opportunity like this in the world. Where else can composers seek inspiration in the wilderness, compose and then hear their compositions performed by professional musicians — all in a very short time?

Two of the composers were also here last year.

“I just left like I didn’t have an option but to come back,” said Stephen Woods. “It was such a profound experience that I needed to follow up on what I started. Also, just the experience of coming up here and being with Stephen Lias and being with guides, composing music and having a performance ... there’s no other place I can do that. I had to do it. I just love it so much.”

Last year, Lias’ piece, “Denali,” was featured at the first-ever orchestra concert at the Denali Visitor Center.

The 2013 concert happens on Saturday, in the same place, at 4 p.m.

The composer featured this year is Erik DeLuca, who spent a week at a remote cabin inside the park, during frigid temperatures in January 2012.

His piece? “Winter.”

“In general, it sort of plays with opposites,” DeLuca said. “I think it happened because of the things I thought about when I was out at the cabin. There are a lot of pretty harmonies, melodic material that is juxtaposed with harsher, noisier elements. That idea is very consistent with my perception of Denali. I think maybe just winter in general.”

He recalled the ski out to the cabin on that cold January day.

“It was a good six miles where I was not looking farther than right in front of me,” he said. “I was a little nervous and tired. It was hard work. Then, the last two miles, I was looking up at beautiful white, lush environment. Those opposites were so stark.”

And that is some of what he tried to portray in his piece.

Saturday’s concert is free and sponsored by Denali National Park with special help from Doyon/Aramark Joint Venture and Denali Salmon Bake.

Kris Capps is a freelance writer who lives in Denali.