On Sunday March 16th, I was lucky enough to nab a seat in Disney Hall to listen to a whole concert of Morten Lauridsen’s gorgeous choral music. The concert was a tribute to the composer and his volume of choral works performed by the LA Master Chorale. It was the kind of music where at the end of each piece you did not want to break the beautiful silence with the obligatory applause. It was that stunning.
Morten and I both attended USC as doctoral candidate students of music “way back when” where we took composition classes together from Halsey Stevens and Robert Linn. We had so much fun and I will never forget those special times. Since then, since I am so busy teaching music to others, directing the Cornerstone Music Conservatory, conducting a children’s chorus, and am also an artistic director to a non-profit organization, it is rare that I have time to compose except for an occasional ditty.
Lauridsen, on the other hand, has gone on to write the most beautiful choral music in modern times and has received countless accolades for his work internationally. He has been called a genius and the most popular American choral composer of the 20th century. With his beard and long tresses, he looks like a musical Moses who has, instead of going off to Mt. Sinai to receive the ten commandments, has purposefully become a part-time recluse every summer on a small San Juan island just north of Washington State to receive the inspiration and the quiet and the spiritual connection he needs to receive his musical gifts from undoubtedly a Higher Power or Force of Nature—whatever one chooses to call it.
In a way his life at times must be lonely, but sometimes musicians must be lonely. They must isolate themselves in order to pursue their passion, their song, their symphony, their opus. The discipline to follow that life path is not always easy and it is a choice for many composers, musicians and artists must make if they are to become excellent at their craft.
When one hears a whole concert of Morten Lauridsen’s music as I did last night, there were moments when the large audience was so quiet that there was not even one muffled cough because no one wanted to ruin the musical canvas upon which the sonorities emerged. As the hall was sprinkled with one incredible note and chord after the other upon the ears of the transformed listener, one wonders how long each one of those notes was contemplated by the composer before actually written down.
I encourage anyone reading this, if you aren’t yet familiar with Morton Lauridsen’s choral music, to sit in a comfy chair with a cup of tea and avail yourself of his many musical offerings on Youtube, close your eyes and immerse yourself in the glorious sound. You will be in for an extraordinary real treat.