The composer on Waldron, a remote island in the San Juan Archipelago
|Birth name||Morten Johannes Lauridsen|
February 27, 1943 |
|Years active||1967 – present|
Morten Johannes Lauridsen (born February 27, 1943) is an American composer. A National Medal of Arts recipient (2007), he was composer-in-residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale (1994–2001) and has been a professor of composition at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music for 50 years.
A native of the Pacific Northwest, Lauridsen worked as a Forest Service firefighter and lookout (on an isolated tower near Mt. St. Helens) before traveling south to study composition at the University of Southern California with Ingolf Dahl, Halsey Stevens, Robert Linn, and Harold Owen. He began teaching at USC in 1967 and has been on their faculty ever since.
In 2006, Lauridsen was named an "American Choral Master" by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2007 he received the National Medal of Arts from the President in a White House ceremony, "for his composition of radiant choral works combining musical beauty, power and spiritual depth that have thrilled audiences worldwide".
His works have been recorded on more than 200 CDs, five of which have received Grammy Award nominations, including O Magnum Mysterium by the Tiffany Consort, A Company of Voices by Conspirare, Sound The Bells by The Bay Brass, and two all-Lauridsen discs entitled Lux Aeterna by the Los Angeles Master Chorale led by Paul Salamunovich, and Polyphony with the Britten Sinfonia conducted by Stephen Layton. His principal publishers are Peermusic (New York/Hamburg) and Faber Music (London).
A recipient of numerous grants, prizes, and commissions, Lauridsen chaired the Composition department at the USC Thornton School of Music from 1990–2002 and founded the School’s Advanced Studies program in Film Scoring. He has held residencies as guest composer/lecturer at over 100 universities and has received honorary doctorates from Oklahoma State University, Westminster Choir College, King’s College, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and Whitman College. In 2014 he was invited to be Honorary Artistic President of Interkultur/World Choir Games.
Lauridsen now divides his time between Los Angeles and his home in the San Juan Archipelago off the northern coast of Washington State.
The 2012 documentary film Shining Night: A Portrait of Composer Morten Lauridsen portrays the composer at his Waldron Island retreat and in rehearsals in California and Scotland. Commentaries about the composer by poet Dana Gioia, conductor Paul Salamunovich, composer/conductor Paul Mealor, composer Alex Shapiro and conductor Robert Geary, along with performances by the San Francisco Choral Society, University of Aberdeen Choral Society and Orchestra, Con Anima Chamber Choir and Volti, are featured. Works include O Magnum Mysterium, Lux Aeterna, Madrigali, Dirait-on, and Nocturnes, with soundtracks by Polyphony and the Britten Sinfonia (conducted by Stephen Layton), The Singers: Minnesota Choral Artists (conducted by Matthew Culloton), and the Dale Warland Singers (conducted by Dale Warland).
A Song Without Borders production directed by Michael Stillwater, the film premiered on February 7, 2012 at the American Documentary Film Festival in Palm Springs (California) was voted Best Documentary at the DC Independent Film Festival (February 29, 2012), Best Documentary/International Subject at the Eugene Film Festival (2012); receiving the Audience Choice Award at the Friday Harbor Film Festival, (October 13, 2013), and Best Documentary at the Asheville Cinema Festival, (November 9, 2014), nominated Best Documentary at Cincinnati Film Festival (2012), receiving Bronze at Oregon Film Awards (2012) and Honorable Mention at the Los Angeles Movie Awards (2012). The NYC premiere (March 30, 2012), hosted by Distinguished Concerts International New York, opened a Lauridsen-tribute weekend at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. The film, produced with optional English and German subtitles, is screened at film festivals, cinema theaters and through choral organizations in America and internationally, as well as for DVD home-viewing distributed by Hal Leonard. The first public television broadcast was in May, 2013, on KCET Southern California. A companion book, Morten Lauridsen's Waldron Island Reflections was published by GIA Publications, Chicago (2013). A Hanssler Classic DVD edition was produced in 2014 for international distribution by Naxos Music.
His eight vocal cycles and two collections—Les Chansons des Roses (Rilke), Mid-Winter Songs (Graves), A Winter Come (Moss), Madrigali: Six "FireSongs" on Italian Renaissance Poems, Nocturnes (Rilke, Neruda and Agee), Cuatro Canciones (Lorca), Four Madrigals on Renaissance Texts, A Backyard Universe, Five Songs on American Poems (Moss, Witt, Gioia and Agee) and Lux Aeterna—his series of sacred a cappella motets (O Magnum Mysterium, Ave Maria, O Nata Lux, Ubi Caritas et Amor, and Ave Dulcissima Maria) and numerous instrumental works are featured regularly in concert by distinguished artists and ensembles throughout the world. O Magnum Mysterium, Dirait-on (from Les Chansons des Roses), O Nata Lux (from Lux Aeterna) and Sure On This Shining Night (from Nocturnes) have become the all-time best-selling choral octavos distributed by Theodore Presser, in business since 1783.
His musical approaches are very diverse, ranging from direct to abstract in response to various characteristics (subject matter, language, style, structure, historical era, etc.) of the texts he sets. His Latin sacred settings, such as the Lux Aeterna and motets, often reference Gregorian chant plus Medieval and Renaissance procedures while blending them within a freshly contemporary sound while other works such as the Madrigali and Cuatro Canciones are highly chromatic or atonal. His music has an overall lyricism and is tightly constructed around melodic and harmonic motives.
Referring to Lauridsen's sacred music, the musicologist and conductor Nick Strimple said he was "the only American composer in history who can be called a mystic, (whose) probing, serene work contains an elusive and indefinable ingredient which leaves the impression that all the questions have been answered ... From 1993 Lauridsen's music rapidly increased in international popularity, and by century's end he had eclipsed Randall Thompson as the most frequently performed American choral composer."
|2012||Prayer (On a Poem by Dana Gioia)|
|2008||Canticle/O Vos Omnes|
|2006||Chanson Eloignee (Rilke)|
(written for the American Choral Directors Association's
|I. Sa Nuit d'Été (Rainer Maria Rilke)
II. Soneto de la Noche (Pablo Neruda)
III. Sure on this Shining Night (James Agee)
IV. Epilogue: Voici le soir (Rilke, added in 2008)
|2004||Ave Dulcissima Maria (written for the Harvard Glee Club)|
|1999||Ubi Caritas et Amor|
|1997||Lux Aeterna||I. Introitus
II. In Te, Domine, Speravi
III. O Nata Lux
IV. Veni, Sancte Spiritus
V. Agnus Dei
|1994||O Magnum Mysterium|
|1993||Les Chansons des Roses (settings of poems by Rainer Maria Rilke)||I. En Une Seule Fleur
II. Contre Qui, Rose
III. De Ton Rêve Trop Plein
IV. La Rose Complète
|1987||Madrigali: Six "Firesongs" on Italian Renaissance Poems||I. Ov'è, Lass', Il Bel Viso?
II. Quando Son Piu Lontan
III. Amor, Io Sento L'alma
IV. Io Piango
V. Luci Serene e Chiare
VI. Se Per Havervi, Oime
|1981||Cuatro Canciones Sobre Poesias de Federico Garcia Lorca|
|1980||Mid-Winter Songs (on poems by Robert Graves)||I. Lament for Pasiphaë
II. Like Snow
III. She Tells Her Love While Half Asleep
IV. Mid-Winter Waking
V. Intercession in Late October
|1976||Where Have the Actors Gone|
|1970||I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes|
|1970||O Come, Let Us Sing Unto the Lord|
|1967||A Winter Come (on poems by Howard Moss)||I. When Frost Moves Fast
II. As Birds Come Nearer
III. The Racing Waterfall
IV. A Child Lay Down
V. Who Reads By Starlight
VI. And What Of Love
|1965||A Backyard Universe|
Over 200 recordings of works by Morten Lauridsen have been released, including five that have received Grammy nominations.
Eight All-Lauridsen CDs:
|Lauridsen: Lux Aeterna Los Angeles Master Chorale Paul Salamunovich Grammy nomination (1998) Lux Aeterna (Orchestral Version), Les Chansons des Roses, Ave Maria, Mid-Winter Songs (Orchestral Version), O Magnum Mysterium RCM|
|Lauridsen: Northwest Journey Chamber works performed by artists Ralph Grierson, Jane Thorngren, Viklarbo Ensemble, Donald Brinegar Singers, Shelly Berg, Sunny Wilkinson, James Drollinger and Morten Lauridsen includes Where Have the Actors Gone, Dirait-on (Duet Version), Ubi Caritas et Amor, A Winter Come, Variations, Cuatro Canciones, Madrigali and O Magnum Mysterium (Piano/Vocal Version). RCM|
|O Magnum Mysterium European CD by the Nordic Chamber Choir conducted by Nicol Matt, includes the Madrigali, Lux Aeterna (Organ version), O Magnum Mysterium and Les Chansons des Roses. Hanssler Recordings|
|Lauridsen – Lux Aeterna Performed by the Britten Sinfonia and Polyphony Chorus conducted by Maestro Stephen Layton, received a 2005 Grammy nomination and includes the Lux Aeterna (Orchestral Version), Madrigali, Ave Maria, Ubi Caritas et Amor and O Magnum Mysterium, Hyperion Records|
|Lauridsen – Nocturnes Performed by the Britten Sinfonia and Polyphony Chorus (with Morten Lauridsen, piano and Andrew Lumsden, organ) conducted by Maestro Stephen Layton includes the Mid-Winter Songs on Poems by Robert Graves, Les Chansons des Roses (Rilke), I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes, O Come Let Us Sing Unto The Lord, Ave Dulcissima Maria and Nocturnes.|
|Dialogues: Musical Conversations between Composer and Conductors- This 3-CD set contains conversations between Morten Lauridsen and conductors Paul Salamunovich and James Jordan discussing Morten Lauridsen’s compositions, with demonstrations by Lauridsen at the piano, GIA Publications|
|Sure On This Shining Night Performed by the Hartford, Conn. chamber choir, Voce, and the Voce Chamber Artists contains movements from six vocal cycles plus four premiere CD recordings. Morten Lauridsen accompanies at the piano on several works. Voce Recordings|
|Lauridsen – Mid-Winter Songs Performed by The Singers – Minnesota Choral Artists contains the complete Nocturnes, Mid-Winter Songs, Four Madrigals on Renaissance Texts and Les Chansons des Roses, plus Three Psalm Settings. The Singers-Minnesota Choral Artists Recordings|
Sheet music sales and performances
Morten Lauridsen is currently one of America’s most performed composers, with hundreds of performances each year throughout the world in venues including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Vatican, Sydney Opera House and Westminster Abbey. Over one million copies of his scores have been sold and his Dirait-on, O Magnum Mysterium and O Nata Lux have become the all-time best selling octavos distributed by the Theodore Presser Co., in business since 1783.
Recordings of Morten Lauridsen’s compositions are featured regularly on radio broadcasts throughout the United States, and he is a frequent interview guest on radio and television programs, including a recent KCET Life and Times program, the oft-repeated national broadcast of "A Portrait of Morten Lauridsen" on First Art, and a nationally-broadcast Christmas Day feature on NPR’s Weekend Edition with Scott Simon. He has been profiled in several extended printed articles, including those in the Los Angeles Times "Calendar", Seattle Times, Choral Journal, Choir and Organ, Chorus America’s Voice, Fanfare Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal. He has received over four hundred commission requests, most recently from Harvard University, the American Choral Director’s Association and the Pacific Chorale, and is a frequent guest lecturer and Artist/Composer-in-Residence.
|1968–69||Jascha Heifetz Master Classes||Theory Instructor|
|1966||USC Music Preparatory Department||Established Theory Program|
|1970–90||Thornton School of Music Undergraduate Theory Program||Coordinator|
|1972–Present||USC Thornton School of Music||Full-Time Faculty|
|Scoring for Motion Pictures and TV Advanced Studies Program, Thornton School of Music, USC||Founder|
|1990–2002||Composition department at the USC Thornton School of Music||Chair|
|Current||USC Thornton School of Music||Distinguished Professor of Composition|
In addition to these positions, Lauridsen has served as Artistic Advisor on the Boards of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Dale Warland Singers, I Cantori (New York), USC Scoring for Films/TV Program, National Children’s Chorus, Creative Kids Education Foundation, Volti (San Francisco Chamber Singers), New York City Master Chorale, Jacaranda, and Angeles Chorale.
Residencies and guest lectureships
In offering residencies for choral singers and composition students, Lauridsen has travelled extensively throughout America, also with visits to the UK and Europe over the years. These residencies have included the following schools and choral organizations.
|University of Arizona||University of Minnesota||University of New Mexico||King College, Tenn.|
|University of California, Berkeley||University of Kansas||Washington State University||Azusa Pacific University|
|University of Nevada, Reno||Portland State University (2x)||Miami University of Ohio||Trinity University (Texas)|
|Colorado State University||University of Kentucky||Boise State University||Morehead State University|
|Lewis & Clark College||University of California, Los Angeles||Pasadena City College (2x)||Volti Choral Institute|
|University of Arkansas||Houston Baptist College (2x)||Portland Symphony Chorus||Portland Liederkranz|
|Phillips Academy, Andover||San Francisco Chamber Singers (3x)||Los Angeles Chamber Singers||Indianapolis Master Chorale|
|Paso Robles Master Chorale||Consortium of Churches, Dallas||University of Northern Illinois||Southern Illinois University|
|University of Georgia||Seattle Choral Company (2x)||Consortium of Churches, Detroit||Angeles Chorale|
|ACDA National Convention, Austin||California Institute of the Arts||National Master Chorale (Washington DC)||Arizona Liederkranz|
|Los Angeles Choral Composer’s Consortium||Westminster Choir College (2x) Rowan University||The Singers – Minnesota Choral Artists||University of Denver|
|Choral Cross-Ties, Portland, Meet The Composer Grant||Oklahoma State University||Central Bucks High School West Choirs (2x)||Voce and the Voce Chamber Artists, Hartford|
|Composer’s Forum, USC Thornton School of Music||King’s College, Aberdeen University, Scotland (3x)||Seattle Pro Musica NEA American Master Composer Grant||Composer-in-Residence, Los Angeles Master Chorale, 1995–2001|
|Pacific Chorale NEA American Master Composer grant||World Choir Games, Cincinnati|
"It’s a Still Life That Runs Deep: The Influence of Zurbaran’s Still Life With Lemons, Oranges and a Rose on Morten Lauridsen’s Composition O Magnum Mysterium", Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2009
Foreword to the book, Evoking Sound, by James Jordan, GIA Publications, 2009
"Morten Lauridsen on Composing Choral Music," a chapter in the book Contemporary Choral Music Composers, GIA Publications, 2007
Liner notes for the CD Randall Thompson—The Peaceable Kingdom, Schola Cantorum of Oxford, Hyperion Records
"Remembering Halsey Stevens," National Association of Composer Journal, 1990
- National Endowment for the Arts Website
- Los Angeles Master Chorale Website
- Thornton School of Music Profile
- Oram, Thomas biography, AllMusic Website
- The Best Composer You've Never Heard Of, Wall Street Journal review by Terry Teachout.
- Shrock, Dennis. "Choral Literature." New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. p. 751-752.
- Strimple, Nick. "Choral Music in the Twentieth Century" Amadeus Press, 2003.
- Wine, Tom et al. (2007). Composers on Composing for Choir Graphite Publishing. Pg. 69–70.
- http://acda.org/page.asp?page=brock_pieces, Retrieved March 2016
- Morten Lauridsen. Lux Aeterna. RCM, 1998
- Morten Lauridsen's biography at www.allmusic.com
- Wine,Tom et al. (2007). Composers on Composing for Choir Graphite Publishing. Pg. 69–70.
- mortenlauridsen.net Composer's Website
- Peermusic Classical: Morten Lauridsen Composer's Publisher and Bio
- Los Angeles Master Chorale bio
- Morten Lauridsen interview by Bruce Duffie
- A Choral Master's Grass-Roots Appeal, Wall Street Journal Review by Bruce Campbell
- The Best Composer You've Never Heard Of Wall Street Journal Review by Terry Teachout
- Song Without Borders Film, Shining Night: A Portrait of Composer Morten Lauridsen Film publisher's website