from Rick Sowash: Guitar Suite: For an Old Friend at Christmas
We're counting down the days on Now Is the Time, Saturday, December 20th at 9 pm. Less Than a Week Before Christmas is David Golub's work for chorus and orchestra: about the cold, about a friend. Morten Lauridsen contemplates the wonder of animals at the nativity manger in one of our time's most-sung pieces, O Magnum Mysterium.
Composer Jennifer Higdon becomes her own poet for Deep in the Night, pondering "this season of love with full brilliant lights." Daron Hagen combines two melodies we recognize with a beautiful one we don't—because he just wrote it—in a work for choir with cello, At Bethlehem Proper. Rounding out the choral works on the program is While All Things Were in Quiet Silence by Ned Rorem.
Two instrumental works find their way in, though. Advent has the same feeling that imbues Yearning, the lovely work for violin and strings by Shulamit Ran, dedicated to Yehudi Menuhin. For solo guitar is the suite of Rick Sowash, helping us count down the days, For an Old Friend at Christmas.
We hope it's not too late for Valentines on Now Is the Time, Saturday, February 15th at 9 pm Eastern on the all-classical stream at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. We start with soprano and guitar, and with an orphan's dream of an angel in Romance by William Ortiz. Irving Berlin's "They Say It's Wonderful" is the inspiration behind Love Twitters by Augusta Read Thomas, for piano, but Morten Lauridsen asks, "Against whom have you formed these thorns?" in Contre qui, rose. A lover asks for a handkerchief (she'll return it when no one's looking), in a four-hand piano setting of the Italian folk song Amor dammi quel fazzolettino by Andrew Violette.
David Bennett Thomas works with some of the greatest love poetry in his Juliet: Five Songs from Shakespeare, and we hear Eric Whitacre's first published choral work, Go, lovely Rose. Finally, Allen Shawn sends us into the evening with a last-minute Valentine's Day present for his wife, titled simply, Valentine.
Morten Lauridsen's O Magnum Mysterium, performed by the Elora Festival Singers, Noel Edison, conductor, is featured on CD 1 in the WRTI 60th Anniversary Classical 3-CD set.
“O great mystery, and wonderful sacrament, that animals should see the newborn Lord, lying in a manger. Blessed is the Virgin whose womb was worthy to bear Christ the Lord. Alleluia!” This text was first chanted by monks in the cold, pre-dawn hours before Christmas mornings centuries ago. Now, the mystical, soaring music of Morten Lauridsen warms millions worldwide.
Simple in structure and harmony, yet quietly overwhelming, the Lauridsen O Magnum Mysterium transcends style with its luminously expressive writing. Morten Lauridsen is one of the most-sung choral composers in America and around the world, and this work is a fine example why.