AGNUS DEI for bass clarinet, SATB (community) choir(s), quadraphonic audio playback and audience. Score and parts available through PROMETHEAN EDITIONS.


Originally the fourth movement of a multi-percussion work called Three Rituals for Percussion Quintet, Choir and Audience commissioned by the percussion ensemble NEXUS, Agnus Dei is a composition based on a simple idea of three interlocking choral motifs perpetually repeating with an added base line. I literally dreamt the idea of this composition in its entirety one night many years ago and it took just a few hours the following morning to write on paper all its essential material. I knew from the outset that, because of its conceptual clarity, this work would have a life in a variety of orchestrations and for a variety of occasions and it has. The most recent version for bass clarinet, ambient soundscape and community choir(s) which was created during the summer of 2018 is the definitive one as far as I am concerned. In this latest incarnation, Agnus Dei has been transformed into a dark composition for our dark times with apocalyptic warning but also encouragement for community-bonding through singing. The strictly repetitive, “New-Age” character of the vocal music and the audience’s involvement in the music’s unfolding, are more recognizable as elements of a ritual than a work of concert music. The music’s hypnotic or ‘tuning’ effect on the audience as a whole and the various types or levels of participation that are available to the listeners (and some of the performers) suggest a spirituality that is not only inwardly but also communal—the kind of spirituality I am personally devoted to. In such a musical experience the personal and communal aspects far outweigh the compositional accomplishment of the individual creator and, like with any ritual or even folk music, this balance allows the participants to be and feel central to the activities about them, as opposed to being (and feeling) passive witnesses to a creative act external to them.

Premiere performance: April 13, 2019, 7:30 PM. Jeff Reilly, bass clarinet; The Monday Morning Singers; The Uxbridge Chamber Choir under the direction of Anne Mizen. St. Paul's Anglican Church, 59 Toronto St. S., Uxbridge, ON.

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