This past week Morten Lauridsen was composer in residence at Rollins College. On Sunday afternoon, the Rollins College Choir and members of the Bach Festival Choir under the direction of Dr. John Sinclair presented some of Lauridsen’s most famous choral works: O Magnum Mysterium, “Dirait-on” from Les Chansons des Roses, Nocturnes, and Lux Aeterna. In addition, Dr. Julia Foster sang his song cycle A Winter Come. Aside from hearing the splendid music, one of the highlights of the afternoon was hearing the composer speak about the pieces and even sit at the piano to play for a couple of them. Following the concert presentation, Wall Street Journal drama critic Terry Teachout conducted a delightful conversation with Lauridsen that shed even more light on the works and Lauridsen’s compositional style and processes.
If you have never heard Morten Lauridsen’s setting of O Magnum Mysterium, then click here to listen to a performance by the Los Angeles Master Chorale with Paul Salamunovich as conductor. Lauridsen served as composer in residence for the ensemble for several years. About ten years ago, I had the pleasure to attend a rehearsal of the LA Master Chorale under Salamunovich while they rehearsed this piece and/or Lux Aeterna. Both pieces always leave me with a deep sense of calm when I listen to them. On Sunday, I found out part of the reason for that: Lauridsen lives and composes on an island off the northern coast of Washington State. Less than 100 people live on the island, and there is no electric service there. He had a $70 used piano brought over on a barge to the former general store that became his island residence. With such a quiet backdrop for composing, it becomes clear to me that the environment where he writes is represented in his output.
Perhaps because of his island home, Lauridsen is highly sensitive to noise pollution. During his interview Sunday afternoon, he encouraged everyone to do what they can to eliminate extraneous noise from their life. At the University of Southern California, after several years of protesting, Lauridsen successfully convinced the school to no longer use gas-powered leaf blowers on campus! I remember back when I was in high school, as soon as I came home, the stereo was turned on and stayed on through the night until I left the next morning. How many of us do that with the radio or TV now? How about when we are driving? Are we really listening to the radio or is it just road noise?
We often pay attention to the food we give our body, but do we spend any time whatsoever considering what sounds we feed ourselves? We know our body feels and functions better when we give it proper nutrition and avoid the junk food. How much better might we feel if we cut out the junk noise?
One of the items on my to do list last year (that didn’t happen) was to spend a week on a silent retreat. After hearing Morten Lauridsen’s music and comments this week, I am recommitting to making that happen this year. What will you do to find some quiet time?
Wishing you peace and quiet,
Newsletter Issue 14 – 2014 01 30
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