Acclaimed composer and USC Distinguished Professor of Composition Morten Lauridsen will receive an extraordinary tribute March 16 by the Los Angeles Master Chorale (LAMC), which will present a sold-out concert of Lauridsen compositions at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
“Tribute to Lauridsen” will feature six of the musician’s best-known works, including “O Magnum Mysterium,” which he composed while serving as composer-in-residence for the chorale, and “Mid-Winter Songs,” originally commissioned for USC’s centennial celebration in 1981. Lauridsen will accompany the chorale on piano for two of the evening’s performances.
The concert will be preceded on March 13 by a radio interview on Classical KUSC’s The Evening Program With Jim Svejda. The interview, scheduled for 9 to 11 p.m., can be heard at 91.5 FM in Los Angeles and around the world at kusc.org.
On March 14, a chorale-sponsored screening of Shining Night, the 2012 documentary about Lauridsen’s life and work, will be held at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. Lauridsen, Shining Night director Michael Stillwater and chorale Music Director Grant Gershon will be present for a post-screening conversation.
This weekend’s events are just a sample of the many concerts and special programs honoring Lauridsen. In addition to the LAMC, the Pasadena Symphony, Fairfax Choral Society and the American Choral Directors Association’s Western Division all decided that this spring is the season to celebrate Lauridsen and his music.
“It is serendipity of the most wonderful kind,” Lauridsen said of the various events.
In 2007, Lauridsen won the National Medal of Arts for his remarkable career. He is a three-time alumnus of the USC Thornton School of Music and has been a professor of composition at the school for more than 40 years. His music has been featured on more than 200 albums — five of which have received Grammy Award nominations — and is performed around the world.
On Feb. 15, the Pasadena Symphony celebrated the 30th anniversary of “Mid-Winter Songs,” the first of Lauridsen’s five choral cycles commissioned to celebrate USC’s centennial.
“The university commissioned a number of works from our composition faculty,” Lauridsen said. “The event gave me the opportunity to begin writing large-scale choral works.”
Robert Duerr, founder of the Pasadena Chamber Orchestra and a former student of the composer, attended the “Mid-Winter Songs” premiere and went on to commission an orchestral version of the same piece. The LAMC performed the piece two years later at the Los Angeles Music Center.
“To have a piece done at the Music Center by the L.A. Master Chorale was a significant moment for me,” Lauridsen said. “Eventually, they asked me to be their composer-in-residence — their first one — and my first piece for them was ‘O Magnum Mysterium.’ ”
From 1994 until 2001, Lauridsen served as composer-in-residence for the chorale. In addition to “O Magnum Mysterium,” he wrote another landmark piece, “Lux Aeterna,” during that residence. Both works have been celebrated the world over and are integral to choral literature.
Lauridsen credits USC Thornton for his success.
“It’s a reflection on the School of Music,” he said. “I came here as a clean slate and was taught very well by talented faculty — Halsey Stevens and Ingolf Dahl and Robert Linn — not only in music, but in other subjects the university has to offer. English was my minor as a doctoral student. Contemporary British and American poetry. I use it every day.
“Little did I know coming down here and living on 25th and Vermont in a place we called Wacky Manor that half the music school lived in at one time or another, that I would end up here,” he added.
Lauridsen’s USC roots remain deep. His most recent collaboration is a setting of the poem Prayer by Dana Gioia, Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at USC.
On March 21, Lauridsen will travel to Virginia to join the Fairfax Choral Society (FCS) for a four-day residency that will include master classes, seminars and a concert featuring the FCS Adult Chorus and Master Singers performing Lauridsen’s choral works, with the composer at the piano.
The final spring tribute concerts will be held on March 29-30 by the Santa Barbara Choral Society and Orchestra at the Lobero Theatre in that city.