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'When David Heard' with the Los Angeles Master Chorale

May 6, 2008 at 5:50 pm UTC

Sunday night the Los Angeles Master Chorale performed my When David Heard on a concert featuring music of L.A. composers, or composers with a Los Angeles connection. Except for Gorecki (who couldn’t be there) each of the composers whose music was featured was actually in the audience. Steven Stuckey, Esa Pekka Salonen, Morten Lauridsen, David O (with and incredibly fresh and exciting premiere), and yours truly.

Grant Gershon conducted the entire concert beautifully; so many colors and subtle nuances from the choir. And the singers are just incredible, truly a world-class ensemble, made all the better by the otherworldly acoustic in Disney Hall.

I won’t say much about When David Heard except this: it is just excruciating for me to hear it. Even now, nine years after I wrote it, the pain in those notes is still right there, right at the surface, as real and visceral as it ever was. Worse yet is when I’m not conducting, sitting in the audience with nothing to do but agonize over every pause, every chord. I’m thrilled that they performed the piece, and I’m happy that the audience seemed to connect with it. But I was dying through the entire thing, silently begging Grant to go faster so that it would be over as quickly as possible.

One more thought about the concert: Morten Lauridsen is a master. (I’m about to use a bunch of italics, because I feel so passionately about this). I’m not talking about musical content, or text settings, or similarities to his other pieces. (There is much debate over all of that, but for the record, I’m a huge fan of his, both as a composer and as a person). I’m talking about the orchestration of the choir, the ‘voice-estration’ if you will, his knowledge of the human voice and how to use it in an ensemble setting. His pieces just sound gorgeous. Lush, and warm, like honey, or butter, or cream. I think that part of his extraordinary success – and I attribute this same quality to the success I’ve had with October, my work for symphonic winds – is that it just sounds so good, and so many different choirs, both good and not-so-good, can pick it up and sound good. I’ve just ordered everything Maestro Lauridsen has composed, and I’m going to go through the scores with a fine-toothed comb and try to learn what it is he does that makes the choir open up and simply blossom.


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