Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium: My Article, the Writing Process, and Video Links

Choral Journal, September 2018. Copyright © 2018 by the American Choral Directors Association.

When I began my book project on Morten Lauridsen’s music in February 2016, I decided that the best place to initiate my work was with his iconic setting of O Magnum Mysterium (1994). This first publication (see the download link just above this descriptive block) involved many interviews with the composer and other choral experts, which took place over the next year. It also involved extensive research into the liturgical tradition of the Christmas Day Matins, as well as inquiry into the art of Francisco de Zurbarán, whose famous 1633 painting, Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose, had inspired the composer. Zurbarán’s painting was part of the collection at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, which is about an hour from my home in Southern California. Seeking to mirror the experience of the composer, who had viewed the painting several times as he wrote the work, I visited the museum many times to take notes, photograph details, and reflect on Zurbarán’s art. In my writing alcove at home, I had a reproduction of the painting propped up on my desk, and I had a framed print of it on the wall. After many months of research, writing, and countless revision, my article was published in the September 2018 number of Choral Journal. In the link above, you will find a PDF file of my article, “‘Thunderstruck’ by Art,” which you may download. It was an honor to be published in the Choral Journal. That placement meant that it would reach the many singers, school and university choral directors, church musicians, and interested listeners whom I hoped to reach. Having first heard this timeless motet in the early 2000s after my friend Wally gave me a Robert Shaw recording of it (the Angles on High CD), I knew how much listeners the world over loved Morten Lauridsen’s unaccompanied choral setting, and I wanted my article to convey to others all that I had learned about it. What beautiful music for us all!

Morten Lauridsen and a young fan of his music, 75th Birthday Concert, Donald Brinegar Singers, Glendale, CA, March 4, 2018. Copyright © 2018 by James Arthur Bond.

–Insights about Zurbarán’s painting by the Norton Simon Museum.

Here is a link to fine performance of O Magnum Mysterium, by the Singers (Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN), conducted by Dr. Matthew Culloton.

In this superb 2016 video made at the Thornton School of Music, University of Southern California, the composer himself discusses the genesis of O Magnum Mysterium. I am always inspired whenever I have the chance to hear Morten Lauridsen tell crucial stories about his life and music.

–A stunningly beautiful film of violinist Anne Akiko Meyers playing O Magnum Mysterium for violin and orchestra, which she commissioned from the composer. The violinist appears in this film with Kristjan Järvi and the Philharmonia Orchestra, who also recorded the work for release on her album Mirror in Mirror (Avie Records, 2018).

Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers also commissioned this wondrous version of the motet for violin and piano. In this clip, she and pianist Akira Eguchi perform the piece at the Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.

James Arthur Bond lecturing on O Magnum Mysterium at the Scandinavian American Foundation, Thousand Oaks, CA, January 9, 2019. Copyright © 2019 by Ernst F. Tonsing.

Read my most recent article, which is on Morten Lauridsen’s beautiful choral setting of Psalm 121, _I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes_.

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