Community Outreach

Program

Christopher Tin: The Lost Birds

I. Flocks a Mile Wide
II. The Saddest Noise
III. Bird Raptures
IV. A Hundred Thousand Birds
V. Wild Swans
VI. Intermezzo
VII. Thus in the Winter
VIII. There Will Come Soft Rains
IX. All That Could Never Be Said
X. I Shall Not See The Shadows
XI. In the End
XII. Hope is the Thing With Feathers

Intermission

Mozart: Requiem

I. Introitus: Requiem Aeternam
Sara Smith, soprano
II. Kyrie
III. Sequenz
1. Dies Irae
2. Tuba Mirum
Sarah Smith, soprano
Ariana Iniguez, alot
Jacob Verhine, tenor
David Topping, bass
3. Rex Tremendae Majestatis
4. Recordare
Holly Sheppard, soprano
Anjelica Simone, alto
Jacob Verhine, tenor
Jordan Murillo, bass
5. Confutatis Maledictis
6. Lacrymosa
IV. Domine Jesu
Leslie Ellingson, soprano
Danielle Hale, alto
Gabriel Frongillo, tenor
Christopher Herrera, bass
2. Hostias
V. Sanctus
VI. Benedictus
Leslie Ellingson, soprano
Holly Sheppard, alto
Bryson Jones, tenor
Jason Raetz, bass
VII. Agnus Dei
VIII. Communio Lux Aeternam
Sarah Smith, soprano
With thanks to Series sponsors Charles Oldham and Joan Goforth

LYRICS: The Lost Birds

The Lost Birds by Christopher Tin

1: Flocks a Mile Wide

“Flocks a Mile Wide” is an ode to the passenger pigeon, a bird that was once so numerous that giant flocks would blacken the skies for days as they flew overhead. Their migrations were a breathtaking sight for the 19th-century traveler–large clusters would form undulating masses that swooped and swerved across the sky, much like the murmurations of starlings still visible today. That magnificent spectacle–of hundreds of thousands of birds carving out organic forms in the sky– serves as the inspiration for the “Flocks a Mile Wide” theme, and the entire story arc of The Lost Birds.

The passenger pigeon flourished until the end of the 19th century, when advancements in technology–notably the railroad and refrigerated boxcar–turned these bountiful flocks into a ready supply of cheap meat that could be hunted almost anywhere and shipped to rapidly growing urban centers. Within a few short decades, through a combination of deforestation and good old fashioned hunting rifles, their population crashed. What was once the most numerous bird in the world–with some estimates placing their numbers as high as 5 billion–rapidly went extinct, and the last wild passenger pigeon was shot and killed by a boy with a BB gun in 1900.

The saga of the passenger pigeon, as well as the extinctions of four other North American bird species, is the basis for a series of bronze statues by sculptor Todd McGrain entitled The Lost Bird Project, along with an accompanying documentary by Deborah Dickson. Alongside the album The Lost Birds, these form an interconnected suite of artistic works that explores extinction through the three disciplines of sculpture, film, and music.

2: The Saddest Noise 

“The Saddest Noise” is a setting of Emily Dickinson’s poem “The Saddest Noise, the Sweetest Noise”. It begins the story of The Lost Birds in spring: the season of birth and renewal, and a time of year when bird songs flood the skies. But what is ordinarily a joyous sound is now riddled with sorrow, as the songs of the remaining birds remind us of the ones we’ve already lost.

Dickinson’s reflections on the birds’ songs – at once tuneful, but tainted with melancholy-inspired my musical language for The Lost Birds. Heavily influenced by the vernacular of the 19th century, the work is both pastoral and romantic, with lyrical melodies and soaring strings. But for all its romanticism and loveliness, there remains a sense of loss that permeates the music: for though the melodies we can still hear are sweet, it is the ones that are lost which we truly wish to hear.

Text adapted from a poem by Emily Dickinson

Between the March and April line-

That magical frontier

Beyond which summer hesitates,

Almost too heavenly near.

 

The saddest noise, the sweetest noise,

The maddest noise that grows and grows,–

The birds, they make it in the spring,

At night’s delicious close.

The saddest noise I know.

 

It makes us think of all the dead

That sauntered with us here,

By separation’s sorcery

Made cruelly more dear.

 

It makes us think of what we had,

And what we now deplore.

We almost wish those siren throats

Would go and sing no more.

 

An ear can break a human heart

As quickly as a spear,

We wish the ear had not a heart

So dangerously near.

 

3: Bird Raptures

One of the most common pairings of birds in literature is the lark and the nightingale. The lark, with its cheery morning song, represents day–while the nightingale’s lonesome song summons the night. But while most 19th-century poets chose to exalt the radiant skylark, Christina Rossetti fixated instead on the nightingale. And in her poem “Bird Raptures”, she envelops it in language of nocturnal sensuality. Awakened by the moon (a symbol of femininity), with repeated entreaties to forestall the dawn, Rossetti adopts the voice of lovers who want the night to never end. (See: Romeo and Juliet, Act III, Scene 5.)

But Rossetti’s Anglo-Catholic faith was never far in her writings, especially in her latter years. And the title of her poem–“Bird Raptures”–imparts a touch of religious ecstasy to her worship of the nightingale. For this reason, my setting of her poem starts as a hymn–a simple chorale, where all the singers’ voices move in tandem to harmonize a melody. But as the song progresses, the voices become less synchronized, and gradually start to resemble the individualized movements of birds in a flock. Voices begin lingering, singing a few extra melismatic notes after the rest of the ensemble lands on a resolved chord. Individual singers break from the ensemble, tugging at their nearest neighbors to follow, as if by magnetic attraction. Soon, the entire chorus and orchestra starts to resemble a murmuration–where individual birds have their own flight paths, but the overall movement of the flock stays contained as a harmonized organism. This flock circles and circles, building in intensity until climaxing on the words ‘silent, sweet and pale’–a rapturous exaltation of the night.

Text adapted from a poem by Christina Rossetti

The sunrise wakes the lark to sing,

The moonrise wakes the nightingale.

Come darkness, moonrise, every thing

That is so silent, sweet and pale:

Come, so ye wake the nightingale.

 

Make haste to mount, thou wistful moon,

Make haste to wake the nightingale:

Let silence set the world in tune

To hearken to that wordless tale.

Which warbles from the nightingale

 

O herald skylark, stay thy flight

To-morrow thou shalt hoist the sail;

Leave us to-night the nightingale.

For a nightingale floods us with delight.

 

4: A Hundred Thousand Birds

Sprightly and magical, “A Hundred Thousand Birds” is a setting of Christina Rossetti’s poem by the same name. It’s a celebration of the nightingale: the bird most adored by Romantic era writers as a symbol of mother nature herself. A summer bird, its nocturnal song was imbued with mystical qualities, both transformative and intoxicating. And in Rossetti’s poem, which contrasts the single nightingale with the hundred-thousand daylight birds, its lonesome qualities epitomize the Romantic idea of the solitary artist in nature.

My setting of the piece is inspired by English folk song, employing both the simple melodic structure and modal harmonies associated with pastoral music. Using the vernacular of folk songs helps place The Lost Birds firmly in the context of the late 19th-century: a golden age of folk music preservation, when musicologists in England and North America criss-crossed their countrysides, transcribing and cataloging folk songs in towns and villages everywhere. It is this same era when rapid industrialization and the rise of cities first started reshaping the natural environment with disastrous consequences, leading us down our current path of widespread loss of biodiversity.

Text adapted from a poem by Christina Rossetti

A hundred thousand birds salute the day: –

One solitary bird salutes the night:

Its mellow grieving wiles our grief away,

And tunes our weary watches to delight;

It seems to sing the thoughts we cannot say,

and to set them right;

Until we feel once more that May is May,

And hope some buds may bloom without a blight.

 

A hundred thousand birds salute the day:–

One solitary bird salutes the night:

This solitary bird outweighs, outvies,

The hundred thousand merry-making birds

Whose innocent warblings might make us wise

Would we but follow when they bid us rise,

Would we but set their notes of praise to words

And launch our hearts up with them to the skies.

 

5: Wild Swans

The Lost Birds is a musical memorial to extinct bird species. But it also carries a darker message: like the metaphor of the canary in the coal mine, the extinction of birds is a preface to the extinction of humans. And thus, the album is split into two halves: the story of the loss of birds, followed by the story of the loss of humankind.

“Wild Swans”, a setting of a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, ends the first half of The Lost Birds. Told from the point of view of the poet, it starts with the sound of bird cries: gradually approaching from a distance, until they pass overhead, triggering feelings of longing. After an instrumental interlude, and the narrator’s impassioned declaration of freedom, the song ends as it started–with the cries of wild swans receding into the distance, foreshadowing their demise.

The migration of swans signifies autumn; and in turn, autumn signals the gradual fading of nature. But beyond their seasonal association, swans themselves have a storied place in literature, often imbued with magical properties. Across myths and legends from every culture, no other bird is transformed into a human as frequently as a swan is–thereby reinforcing the notion that the extinction of birds is synonymous with the extinction of humans. But folklore has also given us the metaphor of the ‘swan song’–the final work of an artist or musician before their death. It comes from the ancient belief that the swan stays silent its entire life, only to sing a beautiful song just before it dies. “Wild Swans” is thus the emotional heart of The Lost Birds--one final, impassioned cry, before the birds’ songs recede into the long silence of extinction.

Text adapted from a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Cry…

I looked in my heart while the wild swans went over.

And what did I see I had not seen before?

Only a question less or a question more;

And what did I see? No less, no more, and

Nothing to match the flight of wild birds flying wild.

Come over the town again,

Trailing your legs and crying!

 

I looked inside my

Tiresome heart, forever living, forever dying,

House without air, I leave and lock your door.

Forever more I leave you.

Wild swans, come over the town again,

trailing your legs and crying!

 

6: Intermezzo

Reprising the theme of Flocks a Mile Wide, “Intermezzo” is an ode to the last passenger pigeon to die in captivity. Named “Martha”, she lived in a Cincinnati zoo all by herself until her death in 1914. Her story, and the stories of many similar birds who were the last of their kind, follows a familiar trajectory: the lone survivor of the species sings their song, desperately searching for a response, only to be greeted by silence. And as she gives her final performance, her melancholy song trails away, diminishing with anguish, and ultimately fading into an eternal silence. The song is now lost forever.

Today the passenger pigeon is one of the most spectacularly tragic examples of human-induced ecological collapse. It serves as a warning that if we could wipe out the most populous bird in the world with nothing by 19th-century hunting technology, how much damage can we now do in the 21st century?

“Intermezzo” marks the start of the second half of The Lost Birds--one in which the focus is no longer on the extinction of birds, but instead on the extinction of humankind.

 

7: Thus in the Winter

We are now in a cold, bleak winter, and the absence of birds is best expressed through the lens of the lonely tree, who witnessed the gradual disappearance–one by one–of the birds that used to sing from its boughs. To capture the desolation of this imagery, taken from Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem “What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why”, I adopted a musical approach inspired by the simple monophony of plainchant. Stark, isolated melodies gradually evolve and intertwine, until their woven layers adopt the contrapuntal shape of a Renaissance madrigal. More and more voices join the chorus, their motion overlapping like birds forming a flock, until all at once their calls reach a climax on the word ‘cry’–a plaintive echo of the final bird cries in “Wild Swans”.

The movement finishes with harmonic ambiguity, followed by an immediate, uninterrupted transition into the next movement. In the same way that species die out in the real world, the end chapters often come in quick, brutal succession.

Text adapted from a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,

Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,

Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:

 

I cannot say what loves have come and gone,

I only know that summer sang in me

A little while, that in me sings no more.

 

But the rain is full of ghosts tonight,

that tap and sigh upon the glass

and listen for reply,

 

And in my heart there stirs a pain

For unremembered birds again

That will not wake at midnight with a cry

 

8: There Will Come Soft Rains

A setting of one of my favorite childhood poems, “There Will Come Soft Rains” is inspired both by the apocalyptic WWI context in which it was originally written, but also by Ray Bradbury’s short story of the same name. Originally published by Sara Teasdale in 1918, it was introduced to a world in which humans, for the first time, could see palpable examples of their own extinction–both through the terrible human cost of the Great War, but also from the 1918 flu pandemic.

The poem portrays a post-human world: one in which society has crumbled, and mother nature has established a new order, indifferent to the extinction of humankind. It is only in such an imagined world where robins and swallows might still sing their songs, which suggests the unthinkable–that perhaps the earth can only thrive in the absence of humans.

Following a thunderous instrumental interlude representing an extinction event, we have a ‘transfiguration’ moment: where echoes from previous movements drift through in a primordial state, like a feverish dream on a dying person’s deathbed. The movement ends on a wispy, minor-key evocation of the “Flocks a Mile Wide” theme; a distant memory of the life that once thrived around us.

Text adapted from a poem by Sara Teasdale

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,

And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,

And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

 

Robins will wear their feathery fire

Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

Not one will know of the war, not one

Will care at last when it is done.

 

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree

If mankind perished utterly;

 

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,

Would scarcely know that we were gone.

 

(The sunrise wakes the lark to sing…

Between the March and April line…

One solitary bird salutes the night…

I looked in my heart while the wild swans went over…

Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree…)

 

9: All that Could Never Be Said

With a simple melody inspired by children’s songs, “All That Could Never Be Said” is a setting of

Sara Teasdale’s poem “In the End”. Showcasing her signature pairing of nihilism and pastoral beauty, the poem is an exploration of regret: it suggests that the consequences of our inaction are final and absolute. There are no second chances to speak up or to act, and all our missed opportunities will be lost to us until we’re reunited with them in death.

In the context of extinction, it mirrors the concept of ‘tipping points’ in environmental science–thresholds that, should we cross them, will be irreversible.

My setting re-imagines the text as a simple children’s melody, recasting the entirety of The Lost Birds as a fable. And just like in the story of “The Grasshopper and the Ant”, the moral of the story is that our inaction in the face of slow extinction will ultimately doom us.

Text adapted from a poem by Sara Teasdale

All that could never be said,

All that could never be done,

Wait for us at last

Somewhere back of the sun;

 

All the heart broke to forego

Shall be ours without pain,

We shall take them as lightly as girls

Pluck flowers after rain.

 

All that could never be said,

All that could never be done,

Wait for us at last

By the sun.

 

10: I Shall Not See the Shadows

“I Shall Not See the Shadows” is based on Christina Rossetti’s poem “When I Am Dead My Dearest”. It portrays death at its most indifferent–unnoticed, unheralded, unremembered. It also suggests that forgetting is a form of extinction, too–that the finality of species lies not in the death of its last remaining members, but in the failure to preserve their memory.

We are currently in an epoch known as the sixth mass extinction–and estimates show that the current rate of extinction, caused almost wholly by manmade factors, is anywhere from 100 to 1,000 times faster than the normal baseline. And despite the high-profile collapse of many species like the passenger pigeon, the majority of extinctions happen quietly.

Text adapted from poems by Christina Rossetti and Emily Dickinson

When I am dead, my dearest,

Sing no sad songs for me;

Plant thou no roses at my head,

Nor shady cypress tree:

Be the green grass above me

With showers and dewdrops wet;

And if thou wilt, remember,

And if thou wilt, forget.

 

I shall not see the shadows,

I shall not feel the rain;

I shall not hear the nightingale

Sing on, as if in pain:

And dreaming through the twilight

That doth not rise nor set,

Haply I may remember,

And haply may forget.

 

Between the March and April line –

That magical frontier

Beyond which summer hesitates,

Almost too heavenly near.

 

The saddest noise, the sweetest noise,

The maddest noise that grows and grows, –

The birds, they made it in the spring,

 

At night’s delicious close.

The saddest noise I know.

 

11: In the End

“In the End” serves as a coda to the story of The Lost Birds, and is a reprise of “All That Could Never Be Said”. This time, however, the musical range of the piece contracts, and one by one the singers stop singing until we’re left with a solitary voice trailing out to silence.

If The Lost Birds is a fable–where the moral of the story is a warning against inaction in the face of extinction–then the ending of the story is now ambiguous. It remains to be seen whether we will be able to forestall our own demise

Text adapted from a poem by Sara Teasdale

All that could never be said,

All that could never be done,

Wait for us at last

Somewhere back of the sun;

 

And when they are ours in the end

Perhaps after all

The skies will not open for us

Nor heaven be there at our call.

After all that was never done.

 

12: Hope is the Thing with Feathers

“Hope Is the Thing with Feathers” is a setting of the Emily Dickinson poem by the same name. It

serves as an epilogue–a final reprise of the “Flocks a Mile Wide” theme, but now set for voices. It suggests that while the passenger pigeon’s song may be lost forever, we can at least honor and preserve its memory with our own songs.

We thus end The Lost Birds on a note of hope.

Text adapted from a poem by Emily Dickinson

 

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul,

And sings the tune without the words,

And never stops at all,

 

And sweetest in the gale is heard;

And sore must be the storm

That could abash the little bird

That kept so many warm.

 

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,

And on the strangest sea;

Yet, never, in extremity,

It asked a crumb of me.

LYRICS: Mozart: Requiem

Mozart Requiem

Introitus Introitus
Requiem aeternam dona ets, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat ets.
Te decet hymnus, Deus, in Sion,
et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem.
Exaudi orationem meam,
ad te omnis caro veniet.
Requiem aeternam dona ets, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat ets.
Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,
and may perpetual light shine on them.
Thou, O God, art praised in Sion,
and unto Thee shall the vow
be performed in Jerusalem.
Hear my prayer, unto Thee shall all flesh come.
Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,
and may perpetual light shine on them.
 

 

Kyrie Kyrie
Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.
Lord have mercy upon us.
Christ have mercy upon us.
Lord have mercy upon us.
 

 

Sequentia Sequentia
Dies irae, dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favilla,
Teste David cum Sibylla.Quantus tremor est futurus
Quando judex est venturus
Cuncta stricte discussurus. Tuba mirum spargens sonum
Per sepulcra regionum
Coget omnes ante thronum. Mors slopebit et natora
Cum resurget creatura
Judicanti responsura.Liber scriptus proferetur
In quo totum continetur,
Unde mundus judicetur. Judex ergo cum sedebit
Quidquid latet apparebit,
Nil inultum remanebit. Quid sum miser tunc dicturus,
Quem patronum togaturus,
Cum vix justus sit securus?Rex tremendae majestatis,
Qui salvandos salvas gratis,
Salve me, fons pietatis. Recordare, Jesu pie,
Quod sum causa tuae viae,
Ne me perdas ilia die. Quaerens me sedisti lassus,
Redemisti crucem passus,
Tamus labor non sit cassus.Juste judex ultionis
Donum fac remissionis
Ante diem rationis.lngemisco tamquam reus,
Culpa rubet vultus meus,
Supplicanti parce, Deus.Qui Mariam absolvisti
Et latronem exaudisti,
Mihi quoque spem dedisti.Preces meae non sum dignae,
Sed tu bonus fac benigne,
Ne perenni cremet igne.Inter oves locurn praesta,
Et ab haedis me sequestra,
Statuens in parle dextra.Confutatis maledictis
Flammis acribus addictis,
Voca me cum benedictis.Oro supplex et acclinis,
Cor contritum quasi cinis,
Gere curam mei finis.Lacrimosa dies ilia
Qua resurget ex favilla
Judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus,
Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona els requiem.
Day of wrath, that day
Will dissolve the earth in ashes
As David and the Sibyl bear witness.What dread there will be
When the Judge shall come
To judge all things strictly. A trumpet, spreading a wondrous sound
Through the graves of all lands,
Will drive mankind before the throne.Death and Nature shall be astonished
When all creation rises again
To answer to the Judge. A book, written in, will be brought forth
In which is contained everything that is,
Out of which the world shall be judged. When therefore the Judge takes His seat
Whatever is hidden will reveal itself.
Nothing will remain unavenged. What then shall I say, wretch that I am,
What advocate entreat to speak for me,
When even the righteous may hardly be secure? King of awful majesty,
Who freely savest the redeemed,
Save me, O fount of goodness. Remember, blessed Jesu,
That I am the cause of Thy pilgrimage,
Do not forsake me on that day. Seeking me Thou didst sit down weary,
Thou didst redeem me, suffering death on the cross.
Let not such toil be in vain.Just and avenging Judge,
Grant remission
Before the day of reckoning.I groan like a guilty man.
Guilt reddens my face.
Spare a suppliant, O God.Thou who didst absolve Mary Magdalene
And didst hearken to the thief,
To me also hast Thou given hope.My prayers are not worthy,
But Thou in Thy merciful goodness grant
That I burn not in everlasting fire.Place me among Thy sheep
And separate me from the goats,
Setting me on Thy right hand.When the accursed have been confounded
And given over to the bitter flames,
Call me with the blessed.I pray in supplication on my knees.
My heart contrite as the dust,
Safeguard my fate.Mournful that day
When from the dust shall rise
Guilty man to be judged.
Therefore spare him, O God.
Merciful Lord Jesus,
Grant them rest.
 

 

Offertorium Offertorium
Domine, Jesu Christe, Rex gloriae,
libera animas omniurn fidelium defunctorum
de poenis inferni, et de prof undo lacu:
libera cas de ore leonis,
ne absorbeat eas tartarus, ne cadant in obscurum,
sed signifer sanctus Michael
repraesentet eas in lucem sanctam,
quam olim Abrahae promisisti
et semini ejus.Hostias et preces, tibi, Domine,
laudis offerimus:
tu suscipe pro animabus illis,
quarum hodie memoriam facimus:
fac eas, Domine, de morte Iransire ad vitam,
quam olim Abrahae promisisti
et semini ejus.
Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory,
deliver the souls of all the faithful
departed from the pains of hell and from the bottomless pit.
Deliver them from the lion’s mouth.
Neither let them fall into darkness
nor the black abyss swallow them up.
And let St. Michael, Thy standard-bearer,
lead them into the holy light
which once Thou didst promise
to Abraham and his seed.We offer unto Thee this sacrifice
of prayer and praise.
Receive it for those souls
whom today we commemorate.
Allow them, O Lord, to cross
from death into the life
which once Thou didst promise to Abraham
and his seed.
 

 

Sanctus Sanctus
Sanctus. Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth!
Pleni suni coeli et terra gloria tua.
Osanna in excelsis.
Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God of Sabaoth.
Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
 

 

Benedictus Benedictus
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Osanna in excelsis.
Blessed is He who cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
 

 

Agnus Dei Agnus Dei
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
dona eis requiem.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
dona eis requiem sempiternam.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
grant them rest.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
grant them everlasting rest.
 

 

Communio Communio
Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine,
cum sanctis mis in aeternum,
quia pius es.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis,
cum sanetis tuis in aeternum,
quia plus es.
May eternal light shine on them, O Lord.
with Thy saints for ever, because
Thou art merciful.
Grant the dead eternal rest, O Lord,
and may perpetual light shine on them,
with Thy saints for ever,
because Thou are merciful.

Program Note from Christopher Gabbitas, Artistic Director

Phoenix Chorale is delighted to be headlining at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts for the first time in collaboration with Scottsdale Arts, presenting a program that brings together two contrasting yet complementary works: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s famous Requiem and Christopher Tin’s reflective elegy The Lost Birds.

Although seemingly worlds apart, the related concepts of the unavoidably mortality of humankind and the avoidable (yet increasingly commonplace) extinction of species due to our actions bring pause for thought: as we focus on our own desperate attempts to leave our mark on this world, we often forget to care for the animals and birds that surround us and have no need or desire for legacy or notoriety.

Mozart’s Reqiuem needs no real introduction as possibly one of the most famous and often-heard classical choral works in history. This year marks the 40th anniversary of its inclusion as the central work in Peter Shaffer’s play-turned-movie Amadeus, and we intend to create as much on-stage drama as possible to honour that great production. American composer Christopher Tin is perhaps best known for his art music accompanying film, television and video game productions; The Lost Birds is a both a memorial for, and a tribute to, species that have been lost due to human activity, through a soundworld of rich and lush orchestral writing supporting elegantly poised choral lines. In combination, these two works present two sides of the same coin: musically, thematically and structurally balanced.

We thank you for joining us as we bring our warmth of sound to Scottsdale, and hope that you will choose to follow us as we continue to present choral music of the highest standard to live audiences across Arizona, and through our recordings to audiences across the world. Our latest album, Sun Moon Stars Rain, was recorded during January 2024 and we look forward to its release this Fall, hot on the heels of our well-received Holiday album which dropped in November 2023. Unique amongst American professional ensembles, each of our singers is resident in Maricopa County or its close environs. These are Arizona’s finest professional singers, and they are proud to sing for you today.

On a personal level, this is my first performance in this wonderful venue – I’m so looking forward to experiencing what I know is an inviting atmosphere and knowledgeable audience. I hope this is the first of many Phoenix Chorale appearances here, and look forward to meeting some of you after the performance.

About: The Phoenix Chorale, The Lost Birds, Mozart: Requiem

About Phoenix Chorale:

The Grammy® Award-winning Phoenix Chorale, led by Artistic Director Christopher Gabbitas since 2019, is regarded as one of the finest choral ensembles in North America of the western classical tradition. All of the 28-voice ensemble’s members are professional singers who currently reside in Arizona.

The mission of Phoenix Chorale is to nurture and amplify the strength and resonance of Arizona’s choral artistry.

Founded in 1958 as the Bach & Madrigal Society of Phoenix, then known as the Phoenix Bach Choir, from 2008 the choir became Phoenix Chorale.  The choir has been fully professional since 1992.

The Chorale typically presents four concert programs per Season in Oct/Nov, Christmas, March and May, featuring a wide range of composers and eras, including one Masterworks Series featuring a longer work. Since 2019, the Chorale has been committed to commissioning one new work per season from female composers.

Annually, the Chorale’s video, audio, and broadcast recordings through YouTube and Arizona PBS reach over one million listeners around the world. The Chorale is ensemble-in-residence at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Phoenix.

Christopher Gabbitas, Artistic Director:

Christopher Gabbitas was appointed Artistic Director of Phoenix Chorale in May 2019, and is delighted and honored to be leading an ensemble with such a rich tradition of spreading the joy of music through song!

Starting as an 8-year-old boy chorister in England, Chris has been singing ever since in various chapel, cathedral and professional choirs including three years as a choral scholar at St John’s College, Cambridge and a year as a lay clerk at Christ Church, Oxford, as well as directing choral ensembles throughout this time.

His singing career culminated in 15 years spent with The King’s Singers performing around 2,000 concerts across six continents, and making in excess of 50 recordings which were recognized with various awards including two Grammy Awards as a singer/producer. In 2013 The King’s Singers were inducted into the inaugural Gramophone Hall of Fame.

In 2019, Chris was appointed as Artist Professor at the University of Redlands, California, where he taught a unique Master of Music in Vocal Chamber Music with a Commercial Music element. This program aimed to produce professional choral musicians for the next generation. Chris maintains a busy teaching and performing schedule across the US.


Outside music, Chris qualified as an attorney in 2003 and maintains a growing legal practice in London, representing clients in the creative commercial sector.

Much though he loves to make music, more than anything Chris enjoys returning home to his wife Stephanie – who hails from the great Commonwealth of Kentucky – and their three girls Bella, Lyra and Ariana, each of whom loves to sing! He also enjoys explaining the rules of cricket, to anybody who will listen.

About The Lost Birds:

The sky was once full of birds. Magnificent flocks so enormous that they darkened the skies for days as they flew overhead. The most awe-inspiring of these flocks belonged to a bird called the passenger pigeon. At their height, they were the most numerous bird species in North America, with a population estimated at 5 billion. But over the course of a few decades, we eradicated them for food, using nothing but the crudest 19th-century hunting technology. With callous indifference, we simply shot them out of the sky, one by one, until their songs were never heard again.

The Lost Birds is a memorial for their loss, and the loss of other species due to human activity. It’s a celebration of their beauty–as symbols of hope, peace, and renewal. But it also mourns their absence–through the lonely branches of a tree, or the fading echoes of distant bird cries. And like the metaphor of the canary in the coal mine, it’s also a warning: that unless we reverse our course, the fate that befell these once soaring flocks will be a foreshadowing of our own extinction.

To pay proper tribute to these birds, I adopted a distinctly 19th-century musical vocabulary: one based on the tunefulness of folk songs, with a string orchestra accompaniment that’s both soaring and melancholy. And to put their story into words, I turned to four 19th- century poets–Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Sara Teasdale. These women saw their world transform from a pastoral society to an industrial one–one in which humans, for the first time, began disastrously reshaping the environment. And the poems which I selected depict an increasingly fraught world: first without birds, and ultimately without humans.

We are now in the 21st century, and our tools for affecting the world around us–emissions, pesticides, deforestation–are more indiscriminate and cruelly efficient. As bird, fish, animal, and insect populations crash around us, we increasingly find ourselves in a silent world–one in which the songs of birds are heard less and less. We hope that the silence can be filled by more voices speaking up on behalf of these lost birds–for their sake, and for ours. – Christopher Tin

Christopher Tin – Composer

Christopher Tin is a two-time Grammy-winning composer of concert and media music. Time Magazine calls his music ‘rousing’ and ‘anthemic’, while The Guardian calls it ‘joyful’ and ‘an intelligent meeting of melody and theme’. His music has been performed and premiered in many of the world’s most prestigious venues: Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Hollywood Bowl, the United Nations, and Carnegie Hall, where he had an entire concert devoted to his music. He has also been performed by ensembles diverse as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Metropole Orkest, and US Air Force Band.

His song “Baba Yetu”, originally written for the video game Civilization IV, is a modern choral standard, and the first piece of music written for a video game ever to win a Grammy Award. His debut album, the multi-lingual song cycle Calling All Dawns, won him a second Grammy in 2011 for Best Classical Crossover Album, and his follow-up release The Drop That Contained the Sea debuted at #1 on Billboard’s classical charts, and premiered to a sold-out audience at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium. His third album To Shiver the Sky also debuted at #1, and was funded by a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign that raised $221,415, smashing all previous classical music crowdfunding records. His fourth album, The Lost Birds, is a collaboration with acclaimed British vocal ensemble VOCES8 and was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2023.

Tin is signed to an exclusive record deal with Universal under their legendary Decca label, published by Concord and Boosey & Hawkes, and is a Yamaha artist. He works out of his own custom-built studio in Santa Monica, CA.

About Mozart Requiem in D Minor, K 626:

The story of this monumental work is veiled in mystery, lending intrigue to what would already be a notable and historic composition.  Early in 1791, An anonymous stranger visited the 35-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart while he was working on The Magic Flute, and commissioned him to write a Requiem Mass. The fee offered was significant, but only on condition that the benefactor should remain anonymous. Blighted by fluctuating physical health and a worsening financial situation, Mozart felt he had no option but to accept the offer. It later transpired that the mysterious stranger was Count Franz von Walsegg, a German aristocrat and amateur musician who wished to pass off the completed work as his own and dedicate it to the memory of his recently-departed young wife.

Mozart had to complete not only The Magic Flute but an additional opera, La Clemenza di Tito, before commencing work on the Requiem. By this stage he had fallen ill for what would prove to be the final time before his early passing, and Mozart relied on an assistant to be his scribe and copyist, as he dictated the music from his bed. According to Benedikt Schack, the tenor who had originated the role of Tamino in The Magic Flute’s premiere performance in September 1791, he and several other friends of Mozart sang through the unfinished manuscript of the Reqiuem on Mozart’s final day alive – with the composer himself singing the alto part up until the Lacrimosa movement before breaking into tears, collapsing into his bed and putting the score aside. He died that night, 5th December 1791, at just 36 years of age.

  At the time of his death, only the opening section of the Requiem (the Introitus) was complete, and beyond that nine more sections had been sketched out – which is to say that the vocal solo, choral parts, and orchestral bass line were mostly complete, with scant orchestral harmony present. This covered the Kyrie through to the Hostias sections, although the Lacrymosa (part of the Sequentia and possibly the most famous and beautiful movement of the entire work) was complete for only the first eight measures. The final movements of Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei, and Communio were entirely missing, which presented a problem for Mozart’s widow Constanze as she needed to receive the full commission fee in order to survive.

Constanze therefore decided to engage another composer to complete the work. Initially this task was to be performed by Joseph Eybler, a former student of her husband, but he declined to finish the job for reasons unknown. It fell to another family friend and student of Mozart’s, Franz Xaver Süssmayr, to complete the score in the version that was accepted and best-known for over 150 years. Less skilled than Eybler, Süssmayr nevertheless acquitted himself fairly well in this task, finishing the orchestration for the opening movements, extending the Lacrymosa fragment into a complete movement, and composing the missing Sanctus and Benedictus from scratch. For the Agnus Dei and Communio, Süssmayr repurposed some of Mozart’s material from the opening movements and used appropriate text for the end of a Requiem Mass.

Although not without controversy, critics taking aim most especially at Süssmayr’s “un-Mozartean” orchestration and some elementary musicological mistakes, his edition will always remain the only contemporaneous completion of the work, from within the composer’s own inner circle. It is possible therefore that this realisation includes some long-lost sketches, or verbal instructions from Mozart himself – a position supported by the generally accepted position that the Sanctus and Benedictus (supposedly written solely by Süssmayr) are of a far higher compositional standard than any other works he is known to have written. Both Constanze and her sister recalled additional scraps of manuscript and instructions given by Mozart before he died, although it is impossible to know whether this was indeed the case. In any event, it is doubtful that we would be in a position to know and enjoy the Requiem at all were it not for Süssmayr’s endeavours – and for that alone audiences remain grateful.

However, since the 1970s there have been several musicologists and composers who, continuing to feel dissatisfaction with Süssmayr’s completion, have attempted alternative completions of the piece. This explosion in interest was fuelled partly by the discovery in the 1960s, of a sketch for an “Amen” fugue which was believed by some to be intended as a conclusion to the Sequentia, following the Lacrymosa, although much doubt remains on this score. The most compelling reasons for a new completion centers on the orchestration employed by Süssmayr, with its over-reliance on doubling instruments leading to a thicker texture than one might expect in a composition by Mozart.  It is for this reason that Phoenix Chorale is presenting Franz Beyer’s 1971 full completion of the Requiem here in Scottsdale; Beyer revised the orchestration with the express intention of bringing the work closer to Mozart’s own compositional style, and introduced some minor changes to Süssmayr’s own sections such as lengthening the Osannafugue to bring a more natural-sounding conclusion to the movement, which together bring perhaps a more authentic sound to the work.  – Christopher Gabbitas