The National Endowment for the Arts’ American Masterpieces: Choral Music initiative is designed to celebrate our national musical heritage by highlighting significant American choral composers and their works of the past 250 years. Stanton’s Sheet Music is proud to present this series highlighting the composers and their works featured in this groundbreaking project.
Libby Larsen (born 1950) has had a remarkable two-track career as a successful composer and as an effective advocate for composers. Her catalogue of more than 200 works in many genres has assured her an important place in American concert life; and her founding in 1973, with Stephen Paulus, of the American Composers Forum, has led to an ever-expanding network of involvement in organizations that support and promote the musical arts. She has held the Harissios Papamarkou Chair in Education and Technology at the Library of Congress and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The breadth and depth of her achievement are tributes to an extraordinary physical and mental energy.
Larsen was born in Wilmington, Delaware, but has lived most of her life in Minnesota, where she studied composition at the University of Minnesota under Dominick Argento, Eric Stokes, and Paul Fetler. Her music is often praised for its vigor and vision, its masterful melding of eclectic elements (jazz, pop music, and parlor songs are all on occasion woven into her tightly controlled classical structures), and its frequent forays into whimsy, as evidenced by such titles as The Astonishing Flight of the Gump and Psyke and the Psyskraper. She is equally able, however, to touch deep chords of feeling as in her song cycle Sonnets from the Portuguese.
In vocal and choral music she has especially triumphed. USA Today has called her “the only English-speaking composer since Benjamin Britten who matches great verse with fine music so intelligently and expressively.” Among her best-known choral works are Ringeltänze, sparkling Christmas music for chorus, strings, and handbells, and The Settling Years, settings of American pioneer texts for mixed chorus, woodwind quintet, and piano.