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  • Cherubic Hymn –– anonymous; liturgical; featured in The Deer Hunter
  • Dixit Dominus & Alleluia arr. by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II; for The Sound of Music
  • “O Fortuna” from “Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi,” Carmina Burana — Carl Orff; featured in numerous films include ExcaliburGlory, The Hunt for Red October, and many more
  • The Seal Lullaby — Eric Whitacre
  • Agnus Dei — Samuel Barber; featured in Platoon
  • Skyfall* — Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth; arr. J.A.C. Redford; from Skyfall
  • Jai Ho! (Dance With Me) — A.R. Rahman and Gulzar, arr. Ethan Sperry; from Slumdog Millionaire
  • Bring Him Home — Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer, and Alain Boublil; arr. Steve Zegree; from Les Misérables
  • Remembering* — Joan Szymko
  • Over the Rainbow — E.Y. Harburg and Harold Arlen, arr. Guy Turner; from The Wizard of Oz
  • Moon River — Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini, arr. Steve Zegree; featured in Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • Gabriel’s Oboe — Ennio Morricone; arr. Craig Hella Johnson; from The Mission
  • Under the Sea — Alan Menken and Howard Ashman; arr. Philip Lawson; from The Little Mermaid
  • Soul Bossa Nova — Quincy Jones, arr. Alexander L’Estrange; featured in Austin Powers

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Cherubic Hymn –– anonymous; liturgical
featured in The Deer Hunter

Starring Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, and Meryl Streep, this gritty and controversial 1978 film won five Academy Awards. Most memorably, it portrays American steelworkers serving in the Vietnam War as they suffer through tense, horrific scenes of conflict and captivity. However, earlier sequences depict a small, close-knit community near Pittsburgh; for example, a wedding features folk tunes and ancient polyphonic music from the Russian Orthodox Church. Used in various settings by Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Gretchaninov, and other composers, this Znamenny chant originated in Byzantium, where sacred text in praise of the holy Trinity dictated the shape of the melody. Read Roger Ebert’s review of The Deer Hunter:

Dixit Dominus
— arr. by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for The Sound of Music

Born into a theatrical family, Oscar Hammerstein II collaborated with composer Richard Rodgers through the 1940s and 50s on Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music. Rodgers copyrighted his first song at the age of 15, but nearly abandoned Broadway to become a babies’ underwear salesman before finding success with Lorenz Hart and later Hammerstein. The 1959 musical The Sound of Music was based on Maria von Trapp’s memoir about the Trapp Family Singers. It was immediately popular, thanks in large part to its original stars Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel, and later Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer in the 1965 movie adaptation. Dixit Dominus and Alleluia were sung by the nuns in the convent. More about the Trapp Family and their lodge:

“O Fortuna” from “Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi,” Carmina Burana — Carl Orff
featured in numerous films include ExcaliburGlory,
The Hunt for Red October, 
and many more

“Fortune meant well with me when she guided…into my hands…a title which attracted me with its magic powers: Carmina Burana,” said Carl Orff. “I was assailed by images and words.” Born in 1895, the German educator and composer discovered a manuscript from the monastery of Bendiktbeuren; in 1936 he set more than 20 of the monks’ 12th– and 13th-century poems to music in a cantata designed for the stage. The title translates as “Songs of Beuren,” and the verses are distinctively secular and profane, touching on the fickleness of fortune and the pleasures of the flesh. Thanks to its innate theatricality and Latin text, Carmina Burana has been excerpted countless times on television and in movies, and the most popular and instantly recognizable section is “O Fortuna” (“O Fortune, like the moon you are changeable…”). Learn more about Carl Orff:

The Seal Lullaby — Eric Whitacre

Eric Whitacre was asked to write music for an animated epic based on Rudyard Kipling’s tale The White Seal from The Jungle Book. The adventure begins with the song a mother seal sings to her young pup, Kotick, which Whitacre uses for his lullaby. Kipling’s story ends with Kotick grown to adulthood as a rare white seal, leading his army of thousands to a haven hidden from men, safe from slaughter and skinning. Regrettably, The White Seal was never turned into a film as the studio turned it down in favor of Kung Fu Panda. Read Kipling’s story:

Agnus Dei — Samuel Barber
featured in Platoon

Familiar and evocative, the first four measures of Samuel Barber’s “Agnus Dei” are filled with just a handful of long, sustained notes in lyrical progression, initiating a tension that builds slowly and inexorably throughout the piece. The text, “Lamb of God,” is set to an arrangement of the Adagio for Strings, which was originally the second movement from Barber’s own String Quartet, Opus 11. While the instrumental version dates from 1938, the “Agnus Dei” was created in 1967 by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Barber, who started composing at the age of seven. The wordless Adagio is often played at state funerals and ceremonies, and became wildly popular after it was used in Oliver Stone’s 1986 movie Platoon. Here’s Roger Ebert’s four-star review of Platoon: and an article about Barber’s “Adagio”:

Skyfall — Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth; arr. J.A.C. Redford 
from Skyfall

Another Academy Award-winning original song comes from the 23rd James Bond film, directed by Sam Mendes and starring Daniel Craig. “Skyfall,” performed by English singer-songwriter Adele, was the first Bond song to win the award and also garnered a 2012 Golden Globe. The Bond movies are based on the character created by British author Ian Fleming and Skyfall, named for Bond’s childhood home, features the spy as a cynical character whose abilities and devotion to his job are slipping. According to notes on the score, the song should be “mysterious and slightly threatening.” A good friend of the Phoenix Chorale, composer and arranger JAC Redford, orchestrated the film Skyfall and received special permission to arrange it for the Phoenix Chorale. This is the world premiere performance of this arrangement. Official movie site:

Jai Ho! (Dance With Me) — A.R. Rahman and Gulzar, arr. Ethan Sperry
from Slumdog Millionaire

“Jai Ho!” was originally written for another movie but won an Oscar and a Grammy on the soundtrack for Slumdog Millionaire in 2008. Adapted from the novel Q & A by Vikas Swarup and directed by Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan, the unsettling film won a total of eight Academy Awards. Dev Patel starred as an orphaned Mumbai teenager from the slums who ends up as a contestant on an Indian game show. He reveals his life story while being interrogated on suspicion of cheating. The feel-good tune was composed by A.R. Rahman, known as “the Mozart of Madras,” with lyrics in Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi by highly-regarded poet Gulzar, who writes songs for Bollywood. More about Slumdog Millionaire:

Bring Him Home — Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer, and Alain Boublil; arr. Steve Zegree
from Les Misérables

Born in 1944, self-taught French composer Schönberg is distantly related to Arnold Schoenberg. Schönberg wrote the musicals Miss Saigon, Martin Guerre, and Les Misérables with lyricist Alain Boublil, the latter adapted in English by Herbert Kretzmer. Les Misérables was based on Victor Hugo’s epic novel and opened in London in 1985, presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company. The musical won eight Tony Awards and the 2012 film garnered Golden Globes, British Academy Film Awards, and Oscars. “Bring Him Home” is sung by the hero Jean Valjean as he prays for the young revolutionary Marius, beloved by Valjean’s ward Cosette. The movie:

Remembering* — Joan Szymko

Thanks to a commission from Alan and Claudia Kennedy for Charles Bruffy and the Phoenix Chorale, American composer-conductor Joan Szymko completed this work on March 31. Born in Chicago in 1957, Szymko studied at the University of Illinois before founding Viriditas Vocal Ensemble, leading Oregon’s Aurora Chorus, and serving as resident composer for Do Jump! Movement Theater. Her song, written for SATB with oboe and cello, uses poetry from A Woman’s Book of Life: The Biology, Psychology, and Spirituality of the Feminine Life Cycle. The work was published in 1998 by Joan Borysenko, a biologist and psychologist from Harvard Medical School, who wrote in her inward-turning verse, “Help me to remember that I am both the singer and the song.” Read about the composer:

Over the Rainbow — E.Y. Harburg and Harold Arlen, arr. Guy Turner
from The Wizard of Oz

Near the beginning of the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, Kansas farm girl Dorothy (played by Judy Garland) wanders off with her dog, Toto, and begins to speculate about “someplace where there isn’t any trouble.” Her wistful, yearning daydream has been called the greatest movie song of all time by the American Film Institute. Some sources say composer Harold Arlen was inspired by seeing a rainbow appear as he drove along Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Arlen wrote for Harlem’s Cotton Club, and created tunes like “Stormy Weather” and “That Old Black Magic.” With “Over the Rainbow” Arlen won the Academy Award for Best Original Song with Edgar “Yip” Yipsel Harburg, a lifelong friend of Ira Gershwin who wrote the words to more than 600 songs. Harburg’s vast output included all the lyrics in The Wizard of Oz and the hits “April in Paris” and “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” before he was blacklisted by Hollywood because of his political ideas. Poet and lyricist Yip Harburg’s website:

Moon River
— Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini, arr. Steve Zegree
featured in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Henry Mancini wrote “Moon River” specifically for Audrey Hepburn’s vocal range in her role as winsome society girl Holly Golightly. Hepburn starred with George Peppard in the 1961 romance based on a novella by Truman Capote and directed by Blake Edwards. Her performance of Johnny Mercer’s relaxed, dreamy lyrics helped the song win an Academy Award, although it was nearly cut from the film by a misguided Paramount Studios executive. In a very different context, “Moon River” was also included on the soundtrack of the 1989 Oliver Stone film Born on the Fourth of July, which starred Tom Cruise as a guilt-ridden Vietnam War veteran. More about Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

Gabriel’s Oboe — Ennio Morricone; arr. Craig Hella Johnson
from The Mission

Best known for his evocative, iconic soundtracks to movies like Cinema Paradiso, Once Upon a Time in the West, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Frantic, and The Untouchables, Italian composer Morricone has written more than 400 film scores. His music is creatively performed in concert by the Spaghetti Western Orchestra, formerly known as the Ennio Morricone Experience. Morricone worked with Roland Joffè on The Mission in 1986 creating music for the film about a Jesuit missionary in South America, which starred Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons. The theme “Gabriel’s Oboe” is performed by Irons as Father Gabriel when he first meets an indigenous Guaraní community and inspired Sarah Brightman’s song “Nella Fantasia.” The composer’s website: and Morricone’s music onstage:

Under the Sea — Alan Menken and Howard Ashman; arr. Philip Lawson
featured in  The Little Mermaid

 Singers imitate steel drums for a calypso feel in Lawson’s arrangement of “Under the Sea,” from Disney’s 1989 animated film The Little Mermaid, based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen. The song was performed in the film by Samuel E. Wright as Sebastian the crab, winning an Academy Award. Howard Ashman was a playwright and lyricist who also collaborated with composer Alan Menken on Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, winning Grammy, Golden Globe, and Academy awards. Ashman died at the age of 40 and was posthumously honored as a Disney Legend for his role in reinvigorating the Disney animated musical genre. Menken continued with the films Newsies, Pocahontas, and Tangled as well as stage musicals. Alan Menken in the Songwriters Hall of Fame: and about Howard Ashman:

Soul Bossa Nova — Quincy Jones, arr. Alexander L’Estrange
featured in Austin Powers

Although it was first released on a 1962 big band album, “Soul Bossa Nova” appeared on the soundtrack to the 1964 movie The Pawnbroker before returning as a theme for the tongue-in-cheek Austin Powers action-comedy parody film series. Mike Myers, who wrote and starred in the Powers films, knew “Soul Bossa Nova” from the Canadian television show “Definition.” Here, it’s arranged with nonsense syllables in a scat singing style by British composer-musician L’Estrange for the Swingle Singers, an a cappella group. Website for composer and impresario Quincy Jones:

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After working in operations for The Phoenix Symphony, violinist Katrina Becker spent ten years at all-classical 89.5 KBAQ. She currently works as a freelance writer creating program notes, scripts, reviews, and magazine articles.