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New song sings Arizona's praise

February 06, 2012

Arizona already has two official state songs – the “Arizona March Song” and “I Love You Arizona” – and is poised to have a third.

Or at least James DeMars and Alberto (Tito) Ríos hope so.

The two ASU faculty members were commissioned by the Arizona Commission on the Arts to write a new song in celebration of the state’s 100th birthday, Feb. 14.

The song, titled “Turquoise and Thunderstorm,” celebrates Arizona’s sights, sounds and tastes, with such phrases as “turquoise and thunderstorm, blue earth, blue in the sky, blue in the dream of rain, of drought and thorn,” “cicada song, manzanita, bougainvillea” and “red earth, red in the sky, red in the chilies, and pomegranate days.”

DeMars said the Arizona Commission on the Arts gave him and Ríos a specific charge: “a five minute song commemorating Arizona.”

“Tito sent me several pages of sketches to choose from, I'd edit these and send them back working to create parallel forms that could be learned by the oral tradition as well as the concert version,” he added.

“Tito is responsible for the concept of bringing together these images that Arizonans share and love.”

The song belongs to all Arizonans, and music in eight arrangements, including classical, popular and jazz, can be downloaded free at the ACA Web site (

The Arizona Commission on the Arts commissioned “Turquoise and Thunderstorm” and a work for band and orchestra, “Arizona Centennial Overture,” by Sy Brandon, for the centennial “in keeping with its commitment to imagine an Arizona where everyone can participate in and experience the arts,” said ACA executive director Bob Booker.”

“As music is a universal language, a wide variety of people can download and perform, or enjoy the performances of, the two musical scores."

Booker added, "This year it will be impossible to celebrate Arizona's 100th year of statehood without an array of arts experiences. Many arts organizations and individual artists will create works to memorialize unique aspects of our state and collective history.”

“Turquoise and Thunderstorm” had perhaps its first performance at the Feb. 3 And Arizona Music Educators Association conference at the Mesa Convention Center. And DeMars said he received an anonymous tip that a folk singer had picked up the pop song version and recorded it.

He and Ríos hope it becomes a repertoire favorite – and possibly that number three.