Program Note for Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna

Written by Timm Adams, Artistic Director on Thursday, 23 February 2012. Posted in Artistic Director Blogs

to be performed during Luminous: Songs of Fire & Light

Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna, written in 1997 for the Los Angeles Master Chorale, is a 25-minute work in five movements set to various Latin texts about light. It is a poignant, modern requiem rich in unashamed consonant harmonies and lush haunting melodies. Lauridsen writes, “I composed Lux Aeterna in response to my Mother’s final illness and found great personal comfort and solace in setting to music these timeless and wondrous words about Light, a universal symbol of illumination at all levels—spiritual, artistic, and intellectual.” The piece is often compared to Brahms’ Requiem, also written after the passing of the composer’s mother, but “without the 19th century guilt”—no Day of Judgment or gloom here, just generosity and radiance throughout. Lauridsen uses the chant-like melodies and sophisticated counterpoint of the high Renaissance, especially the music of Josquin, for his inspiration in this composition.

The work opens with the beginning of the Requiem Mass and introduces several themes that occur throughout the work. The second movement, In te Domine, Speravi, speaks to the hope and trust the composer has for life eternal after death, and includes the most angular melodies of the entire work and an inverted canon between sopranos/altos and tenors/basses at its center. The central movement, O Nata Lux, is an a cappella motet that asks the “Light of Light” to accept the speaker’s praises and prayers. It is paired with the fourth movement, Veni, Sancte Spiritus, which begins with praise and moves into supplication (“grant us everlasting joy!”). The final movement is a quiet setting of Agnus Dei, followed by a reiteration of the opening Lux Aeterna. The work closes with a glorious “Alleluia”—the angels joyfully summoning the soul to heaven.

Morten Lauridsen (b. 1943) has long been a professor of composition at University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music and was Composer-in-Residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale when Lux Aeterna was written. His music consists primarily of choral works, which have become a staple to choirs around the world. Of his seven vocal cycles and handful of a cappella motets, O Magnum Mysterium, Sure on this Shining Night, Dirait-on, and O Nata Lux (the center movement of Lux Aeterna) are by far his most popular.

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About the Author

Timm Adams, Artistic Director

Timm Adams has had the honor of conducting the Chicago Chamber Choir since January of 2000, after singing with the group for one season. Adams is currently Associate Professor of Music at Rockford College in Rockford, IL, where he teaches private voice and musical theatre courses, conducts three choirs, and musical directs the Performing Arts Department’s mainstage musicals. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from Liberty University and a master’s degree (M.M.) in vocal performance from Baylor University, where he served as Opera Teaching Assistant and directed several operas. A conducting student of Dr. K. Lawrence Renas and a voice student of Dr. John Van Cura, Adams has had the privilege of singing under the tutelage of Dr. Eph Ely, Dr. Hugh Sanders, Dr. Robert Young, and the renowned Dr. Robert Shaw. He also has enjoyed an extensive career in theater, both as an actor and musical director, and has performed throughout the U.S. in summer stock, regional theater, and in numerous revues, including a premier contract aboard Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas..

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