The Fenix

SATB (div.) a capella, soprano soloist, optional boy soprano

The text for this piece about death and rebirth is an excerpt from the Exeter Book, a 10th-century anthology of Anglo-Saxon poetry. It is set in the original Anglo Saxon language, maintaining the poem's mysterious, magical feel. The choir narrates the story of the Fenix (phoenix in modern spelling), while a soprano soloist provides the voice of the Fenix herself, ideally from a balcony or other off-stage space where her voice can appear as if from nowhere.


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Commissioned By: 
The Rose Ensemble with funding from the Jerome Foundation and special support from The Schubert Club.
Text Author or Source: 
The Exeter Book
Anglo Saxon

Se sceal þære sunnan sið behealdan
leohte in life
lif butan ende

ðone wudu weardaþ, wundrum fæger
fugel feþrum strong, se is fenix haten.
Se sceal þære sunnan sið behealdan
hwonne up cyme eastan glidan
ofer sidne sae swegles leoma.

Se sceal þære sunnan sið behealdan
leohte in life

þær se eadga mot eardes neotan,
wyllestreama wuduholtum in,
wunian in wonge, oþþæt wintra bið
þusend urnen.

ond fenix byrneð.
wundrum fæger

lif butan ende
leohte in life…


She shall behold the sun's journey
light in life
life without end

in woodland dwells, wondrous fair
bird, feather-strong, who is called Fenix.
She shall behold the sun's journey
When up comes, gliding from the east
over the wide sea, heaven's gleam

She shall behold the sun's journey
light in life

There she enjoys her dwelling place
in the well-streams and the woodland grove,
living in the world, until winter takes
a thousand turns.

and Fenix burns.
wondrous fair

life without end
light in life..