Agnus Dei: Phoenix

SATB A Cappella
Lyrics: Agnus Dei
Language: Latin
Duration: 5:30


In May, 2008, I was invited to attend a performance by the Phoenix Chorale of three of my choral works; Ubi Caritas, Prelude and Unicornis Captivatur. It would be the first time I ever saw the desert, so I drove from Los Angeles to Phoenix with a friend to get a sense of what it’s like.


It made a very lasting impression on me, the quiet beauty and barrenness of the landscape, as did the city of Phoenix, which I have come to love dearly. I was later appointed Composer-in-Residence with the Grammy winning Phoenix Chorale for the ‘09/’10 season.


Phoenix is symphonic in nature, and is one of those pieces where the text is perhaps more a servant of the music than the other way around. I chose the Agnus Dei text not so much for its literal meaning, but mainly for its singability and comfortable vowels, which lends itself to long notes and melismas. Perhaps that was the reason why this text also was chosen for the choral arrangements of Barber’s Adagio and Elgar’s Nimrod, two of the most hauntingly beautiful pieces ever written. You might say that Phoenix is more like film music set to pictures and memories from the city and the desert than the specific musical interpretation of a text.


Other influences on the piece were the music of my favorite composer, Thomas Newman (American Beauty, Wall-E) and the incomparable art of glass sculptor Dale Chihuly, whose exhibit at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix was one of the great experiences of my life.