I see this carol as a scene: Mary sits in the dark when light gently breaks in the room as the angel Gabriel reveals himself and slowly unfolds his wings (the opening phrase is meant to convey this). The rest of the piece is essentially a quiet waltz of profound, inner joy between the angel and the maiden.
I decided to use the Basque in the first verse because it adds to the mysterious quality of the music. Aside from that it’s the language the carol was originally written in and, as such, has certain desirable qualities in the combinations of consonants and vowels that the English translation doesn’t (imagine Joy to the World sung in German: “Heiterkeit zur Welt”).
Gabriel’s Message was commissioned by The Singers—Minnesota Choral Artists and received its premiere on December 3, 2005. It is dedicated with love to Matthew and Melissa Culloton. The composer owes a special debt of gratitude to Argitxu Camus of the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada in Reno.