Los Angeles Music Preview: TRIBUTE TO LAURIDSEN (Los Angeles Master Chorale)

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by Tony Frankel on March 13, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles


With dozens of worthy events to choose from this Sunday, March 16, the choice to see Los Angeles Master Chorale’s all-Lauridsen program at Disney Hall was a no-brainer. Yet a fascinating thing happened recently; a few friends and family members asked, “Who is Lauridsen?” I tell them he is one of the only modern American composers who is writing classical music that offers immediate contentment to the untrained or nonprofessional ear, yet his work contains the gravitas that excites and astonishes proficient musicians and singers.

Morten Lauridsen's Composing Studio, Waldron Island, WashingtonIn the film documentary entitled Shining Night: A Portrait of Composer Morten Lauridsen, the poet Dana Gioia—past chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts—describes him as “one of the few living composers whom I would call great.” I agree. As part of their Lauridsen weekend, LAMC will be offering an exclusive screening of the film with a post-screening conversation with Lauridsen, film director Michael Stillwater, and LAMC Music Director Grant Gershon on Friday, March 14, at the historic Alex Theatre in Glendale.

shining-night-posterThe picture documents this LA-based living legend who spends summers composing on the remote Waldron Island in the Pacific Northwest (he lives in a renovated general store that overlooks Puget Sound), and features interviews with him in California, Scotland, and Washington, interwoven with performances of his masterworks and commentaries by music contemporaries. Revealed through the lens of his passion for nature and music, Lauridsen expresses a presence of fierce compassion and unwavering dedication to the craft of composition.

Unless you sing in a choir or listen to new choral music, Lauridsen’s name may very well be foreign to you. But did you know that his music is more widely performed than that of any other contemporary choral composer? Even with a rightfully zealous following of, well, anyone who has been introduced to him, his name is rarely bandied about in the media. But when it is, the sentiments are rapturous. The Wall Street Journal said, “His sacred music is unabashedly, even Los Angeles Master Chorale - photo by Lee Salem.fearlessly tonal, and his chiming harmonies serve as underpinning for gently swaying melodic lines that leave no doubt of his love for medieval plainchant. Nothing about his music is “experimental”: It is direct, heartfelt and as sweetly austere as the luminous sound of church bells at night.”

Thankfully, through recording and performances, LAMC is dedicated to bringing Lauridsen to a wider audience. Lauridsen was the choir’s Composer In Residence from 1995 to 2001, and is regarded as the composer most closely associated with the renowned chorus. When LAMC premiered a new work in 1994 by the man of meditative temperament who treasures “serenity and silence,” Music Director Paul Salamunovich declared to the audience, “Until now, Vittoria’s O Magnum Mysterium has been the most beautiful and well recognized setting of this text composed to date. I predict that will change after tonight.” He was absolutely correct. As part of their tribute concert, LAMC will reprise O Magnum Mysterium; here is a sample from their Lauridsen CD:

Sunday’s concert of 48 singers contains many of Lauridsen’s favorite works with one or two accompanied by the composer himself. The Chorale performs such Lauridsen gems as Mid-Winter Songs, Ave Dulcissima Maria, Canticle/O Vos Omnes, Nocturnes, Madrigali and Les Chansons des Roses. A preconcert talk with Alan Chapman and Grant Gershon will occur one hour before the program, which hopefully won’t be sold out by the time you read this.

Tribute to Lauridsen
Los Angeles Master Chorale
Grant Gershon, conductor
Morten Lauridsen, piano
Lisa Edwards, piano
Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Avenue
Sunday, March 16, 2014, 7 pm
for tickets, call 213-972-7282 or visit www.lamc.org
Mid-Winter Songs
Canticle/O Vos Omnes
Ave Dulcissima Maria
Les Chansons des Roses
O Magnum Mysterium

Shining Night: A Portrait of Composer Morten Lauridsen
Documentary Film Screening & Panel Discussion with:
Morten Lauridsen, composer
Michael Stillwater, film director
Grant Gershon, LAMC Music Director
Alex Theatre, 216 North Brand Boulevard in Glendale
Friday, March 14, 2014, 8 PM
for tickets ($15), call 213-972-7282 or visit www.lamc.org

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