The Haga Motettkör premiered my composition “What Is God?” during the 8th World Choir Games in Riga, Latvia, in July. The piece, which is combining shimmering harmonies with swiftly moving passages of ambivalent ostinati and quasi-bitonal statements, was commissioned to be premiered in the Contemporary Music section and was the piece that received the highest jury points among the pieces that were performed by the choir. I have to admit being humbled by the fact that the jury consisted of several of my heroes… Vytautas Miskinis and Javier Busto, to name two of them. The piece sets a text by Eckhart Tolle to music and is, in terms of the actual performance, one of the more demanding choral compositions I have written so far.
Author Archives: mikaelcarlsson
My setting of Ave Maria – possibly the most popular sacred text ever judging from the number of existing compositions based on these beautiful lyrics – was premiered by the Haga Motettkör conducted by Ulrike Heider in service at the Haga Church, Göteborg, in March. This one actually replaces an earlier Ave Maria I had composed in 2007 but was never really happy with. The new one came to me much more naturally and has a theme and flow that is uncomplicated and, hopefully, unpretentious. I can’t think of anything more wrong than doing being too pretentious with this text. It should just be natural, like the piece always existed and just had to be written down.
I am excited to have accepted a commission from the Haga parish of the Swedish Church in Gothenburg to compose original choral music to be used in service throughout 2014. The music will be performed by the Haga Motettkör and the motets will be designed to illustrate the evangelic focus of four specific Sundays. I have already began work on two major a cappella works, Ave Maria and Ubi Caritas. More updates to come!
Johannebergs Vokalensemble recently premiered my most recent choral piece, “Nu öppnar nattglim sin krona” based on a beautiful poem by Eric Axel Karlfeldt. The piece sets the colourful poem to music written in a style that in some ways pays homage to the neo-romantic Swedish tradition of choral writing, but still with a dash of modern aesthetics. The structure of the piece centers on a development in the arrangement going from 4 part, via 6 part to the final 8 part divisi. This is a piece that would benefit from being performed by a larger choral ensemble – the recording below is only 11 voices, but still very happy with the way it turned out.
I am now married to my beautiful Lina, and the wedding was wonderful and – of course – featured some choral music. We’re both choir geeks and met each other as singers in the Haga Motettkör, so having our friends of this choir being there and perform Maurice Duruflé’s Ubi caritas as well as my own arrangement of the classic Swedish summer psalm Den blomstertid nu kommer was almost a given. In addition to this, I had made a choral arrangement of Över brudfolk, a song originally written by Lina’s grandfather Gustaf Bjarnegård based on an old composition by Johan Helmich Roman. Gustaf was an accomplished and prolific composer, organist and priest, and this piece has been performed during many Bjarnegård weddings – a wonderful tradition which we carried forward giving it our own little touch.
Below is a recording of the Haga Motettkör performing Den blomstertid nu kommer. The piece is dedicated to the love of my life.
I am very happy to announce that my a cappella piece, Pater Noster, is now available from Bo Ejeby Förlag, who describes the composition as “a sonorous piece, in the mood of composers like Eric Whitacre or Morten Lauridsen”.
To me, writing choral music has been a very important way to channel my own thoughts and feelings towards God, faith and religion. My setting of “Pater Noster”, hopefully, illustrates a sense of being safe in the hands of the lord, and being comfortable, maybe even relaxed in your faith. The piece is in A-B-A form based on an warm and simple hymn, a more prayer-like mid section and with a very beautiful and shimmering cluster during the final ‘Amen’ leading the way to a hushed and trustful ending in Db major.
Two of my choral works, “O Magnum Mysterium” and “I Am Your Sunlight” (lyrics by Janet Jackson), are now available from Santa Barbara Music Publishing! I am very proud to be a composer in such amazing company, with other of their published composers being among my very own “choral heroes”: Eric Whitacre, Joshua Shank, David N. Childs, René Clausen, Javier Busto, Vytautas Miskinis… Both of my works are considered to be “level: difficult” and in their virtuoso catalogue. Don’t let that scare you, I can sing them myself so they can’t be too tricky…
On “O Magnum Mysterium”, SBMP writes: “This piece is best described as “Wow.” It is highly recommended for the mature choir and for a favorable acoustic setting.”
Another of my sacred pieces, “Agnus Dei“, was released last year by SBMP.
My setting of Werner Aspenström’s poem ‘Ej blir det natt’ was recently premiered by Johannebergs Vokalensemble of Göteborg, conducted by Jan K. Delemark, as a part of the choir’s programme for the Feast of Christ the King on November 20, 2011. I was also the producer of the concert incorporating other works by composers such as James MacMillan, David Buckley and Will Todd.
Here is a live recording of the performance.