Author Archives: mikaelcarlsson
How do you write a Requiem in the year of 2016? After much thinking and procrastination, I realized that for me, there could only be one honest answer to that question, having received a commission to write such a composition in this time of turmoil and human suffering as we experience the most severe migration crisis in Europe, where families are torn apart following war and terror in their native countries. I could not write this piece without taking all of that into consideration, living in an extremely wealthy country that first welcomed everyone in need of our help, then suddenly shut the door on them.
I have chosen to set my Requiem to the classical mass text, incorporating the Gregorian melodies, but also giving the different movements a sub-title to create a parallell narrative telling the story of a refugee family. While the piece reflects my own faith and sometimes the ambiguity that comes with it, it is also possible for the listener to imagine the story of this family, torn apart in war and terror, through prayer (Kyrie), hope (Sanctus) and sacrifice (Agnus dei) on a journey towards reunion (Lux aeterna). Parts of the work, which was written for string orchestra, piano and voices, features double choir, where one choir sings exclusively minor harmony and the other only major, perhaps conveying my own ambivalence towards the subject of death.
The Requiem was commissioned by the Swedish Church’s congregation of Haga, Göteborg, and will be premiered by the Haga Motettkör, musicians from the Gothenburg Opera Orchestra and pianist Svetlana Beliakovskaia under the direction of Ulrike Heider in Haga Church on November 5. The artwork for this project was created by Anders Nyberg.
Here is a video of the premiere performance of my ‘Alleluia’ featuring the joined forces of Haga Motettkör and Caritas Chamber Choir of Canterbury, conducted by Benedict Preece. It was a very rewarding to perform this piece with both choirs, and we also had the luxury to have the piece performed in the fantastic Canterbury Cathedral, which could only be described as a true honour! Thanks to conductors Ulrike Heider and Benedict Preece for making this idea becoming a real success!
Johannebergs Vokalensemble, conducted by Jan K. Delemark and with Björn Johansson on piano, premiered by ‘Three Shakespeare Nocturnes’ on April 17, as part of the choir’s concert tribute to the bard, “If Music Be the Food of Love… William Shakespeare 1564-1616”. Above is a recording of the premiere performance!
My latest choral piece, a setting of the ‘Alleluia’, will be premiered by Haga Motettkör and Caritas Chamber Choir at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Canterbury at 7:30pm on Friday, May 6. This was a joint commission from both choirs to perform together during the small UK tour Haga Motettkör is going on during the first week of May. The choir will also visit Southampton and London. The ‘Alleluia’ has, of course, been set many times to music (I am fond of the Thompson and Whitacre versions), and the challenge here is to focus on one word of lyrics, indeed one of the most powerful we have, but nevertheless only one. The climax of the composition features a big glissando section where singers, while emphasizing overtones, expand pitches from unison to a massive fortissimo layer of perfect fifths. The piece will be presented during a concert – Northern Lights – that features many other sacred works by Nordic composers such as Jan Sandström, Knut Nystedt and Ola Gjeilo
I am excited to have set my first Shakespeare lyrics to music! As a part of Johannebergs Vokalensemble’s celebration of Shakespeare, commemorating the death of the author 400 years ago, the ensemble will premiere my “Three Shakespeare Nocturnes” based on text from Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing. In fact, one of the portion I felt that I simply could not avoid doing my own version of is the same that Patrick Doyle set beautifully for the Kenneth Branagh film adaptation of the latter, Pardon, Goddess of the Night, in my version titled Heavily, Heavily. The other two are Over Hill, Over Dale (yes, I know that I’m up against Ralph Vaughan Williams and many others who also set this to music) and Night of Our Solemnities, which despite its brevity is my personal favorite of the texts chosen:
Four days will quickly steep themselves in night;
Four nights will quickly dream away the time;
And then the moon, like to a silver bow
New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night
Of our solemnities.
My three Shakespeare pieces also mark the first time that I’ve written choral music incorporating piano. I happen to be a huge fan of true a cappella music, and choral pieces with piano accompaniment seldom triggers my enthusiasm. But as I started out working on these compositions, I realized that the first ideas that came to me were essentially suited for the piano. So… there is a first time for everything!
Johannebergs Vokalensemble will premiere the cycle under the direction of Jan K. Delemark in concert on April 17, 2016.
My ‘Te Deum’ for Orchestra and Choir received its world premiere in concert at Johannebergskyrkan, Göteborg, on October 18. Part of the church’s 75th anniversary celebration, the concert (which also featured one of the most beloved choral works in Sweden, God in Disguise by Lars-Erik Larsson) attracted the attention of over 500 people. The Johannebergs Oratoriekör and Camerata Gothia with winds from the Gothenburg Opera House performed the piece with great enthusiasm, and I could not be happier with this premiere of my first larger scale piece incorporating orchestra. The foundation for this ‘Te Deum’ is the pitches of the three tower bells of the church (D#, F# and G#) which permeates the piece both harmonically and melodically. The old ‘Te Deum’ text travels between big exclamations and more “thoughtful” moments, thus lending itself to a quite dramatic music setting.
My deepest thanks go out to Jan K. Delemark, conductor of the piece and the one who commissioned the work in celebration of the 75 year old Johannebergskyrkan.
I recently finished writing my Te Deum for Orchestra and Choir, commissioned by The Swedish Church and the parrish of Johanneberg. The work will be serve as the celebratory opening piece for an anniversary concert commemorating the erection of Johannebergskyrkan 75 years ago. The original eleven minute work will then give room for two compositions written in 1940 – a selection from the cantata that was written for the opening of the church (Cantata da Chiesa) by the composer who was also the church’s first organist, Hilding Hallnäs, and the well-known choral work God in Disguise by Lars-Erik Larsson.
It was a thrill to get the opportunity to write for orchestra and choir. The backbone of the Te Deum consists of three notes – D#, F# and G#, which are the pitches the three church bells in the tower are tuned in. The majority of the harmony in the piece is developed from these three notes. The piece also includes a quote from a Hilding Hallnäs composition (Benedictus) serving as an ‘echo of the past’. The concert takes place in Johannebergskyrkan on Sunday, October 18, with Jan K. Delemark conducting the choir and orchestra.
It was a thrill to have the mystical lyrics of H.P. Lovecraft set to music in my latest choral piece, “Rhyme of Polaris”. I have always been a fan of science fiction, and Lovecraft is a long-time favorite – perhaps in my book best known through the film adaptations of Re-Animator, but also through the Cthulhu myth. I found these lyrics as featured in Lovecraft’s 1918 short story, “Polaris”, and was inspired to write this piece. The text (below) sparkled, in particular, exploration of harmony to evoke my interpretation of the unusual text. Haga Motettkör, conducted by Ulrike Heider, premiered the piece in concert on June 6, 2015.
Slumber, watcher, till the spheres,
Six and twenty thousand years
Have revolv’d, and I return
To the spot where now I burn.
Other stars anon shall rise
To the axis of the skies;
Stars that soothe and stars that bless
With a sweet forgetfulness
Only when my round is o’er
Shall the past disturb thy door.
I am excited to announce that my composition ‘I Am Your Sunlight’ will be performed in concert with the Los Angeles Master Chorale Chamber Singers, conducted by Lesley Leighton, at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, on May 1, 2015. The performance is part of the High School Choir Festival and also features works by György Orbán, Philip White and Matthew Brown among other esteemed colleagues. To my knowledge this is my L.A. premiere as a composer which feels particularly exciting since I have had so many connections with this city due to my work in the film music business!
More information about the event here!