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.
The composer who can make a career almost exclusively from choral music has been a rarity since the Baroque era, but Morten Lauridsen (born 1943) has done it in our day, and while living, studying, and working in the same general area his entire life.
Born in the state of Washington, he was reared in Portland, Oregon, worked for the Forest Service near volcanic Mount St. Helens for a time, then studied composition at the University of Southern California where Halsey Stevens and Ingolf Dahl were among his distinguished teachers. He progressed rapidly to become a professor of composition at Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California, a position he has held for more than 30 years, chairing the department for 13 years.
From 1994 to 2001 he was Composer-in-Residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, which frequently performed his works and helped to promote them around the world. Along with Randall Thompson, he is now one of America’s most frequently performed choral composers – his works have appeared on more than 100 CDs.
“O Magnum Mysterium” is the best-known of his sacred a cappella motets and has become distributor Theodore Presser’s best-selling choral octavo in its history dating back to 1783. It offers one of the most haunting vistas of Lauridsen’s often serenely mystical style. Also high on the list of favorites are his Madrigali: Six Fire Songs on Italian Renaissance Poems, along with six other cycles taking their textual inspiration from around the globe: Mid-Winter Songs, Les Chansons des Roses (“En une seule fleur,” “Contre qui, rose,” “De ton rêve trop plein,” “La rose complete,” and “Dirait-on”), Cuatro Canciones, Nocturnes, Lux Aeterna, and A Winter Come.