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.
How often does a composer of choral music get the opportunity to have a full concert of his or her own music? I am so grateful for this luxury offered by the Haga Motettkör and its director Ulrike Heider, who has always been a strong supporter of my composition activities. On February 1, 2015, the choir performed nine of my compositions under the title “The Haga Motets”, focusing on the sacred music I wrote for various services during 2014. I was also very happy to work with Karin Johansson, a brilliant piano improviser, who interpreted three of my pieces (O Sacrum Convivium, Kyrie and What Is God?) as interludes in the mid-section of the concert. The two last pieces of the concert were premiere performances of compositions dedicated to my two boys, Elmer (Lyckans minut – “Minute of Happiness”) and Hilding (Gud som haver barnen kär – “God who treasures children all”).
The beautiful poster for the concert was designed by Anders Nyberg.
Below is the full unedited recording of the concert.
- Day Unto Day (4:00)
- Ubi caritas et amor (8:40)
- Song of Faith (13:32)
- Ave Maria (17:38)
- Piano improvisation over O Sacrum Convivium (22:22)
- O Sacrum Convivium (29:07)
- Piano improvisation over Kyrie (34:37)
- Kyrie (based on Sonata nr 39 K 402 by Domenico Scarlatti) (40:35)
- Piano improvisation over What Is God? (43:14)
- What Is God? (51:14)
- Lyckans minut (57:09)
- Gud som haver barnen kär (61:40)
My seven ‘O antiphons’ I composed for the Haga Motettkör was premiered in service in December conducted by Ulrike Heider. The seven rather short pieces – around 15 minutes all together – are entitled Antiphonae Intervallum since each and one of the pieces are based on one of the intervals in a major scale. I often find that formal restrictions is a real creativity trigger and the challenge forced me to write in new ways. Limited by the harmonic constraints but of course also paying attention to the text made this a very rewarding composition project. Below is a recording from the premire of the second movement, O Adonai.
If you are interested in downloading a PDF of the score, please go here!
Sometimes being a concert producer and a composer has very practical implications. On December 21, 2014, Johannebergs Vokalensemble will perform a concert devoted to various musical setting of three well-known Maria hymns – Ave Maria, Tota pulchra es and A Spotless Rose. The program was structured so that each text is represented by four settings by different composers, and four of the songs were to be performed by women’s and men’s choir separately, two each. I found wonderful settings that fitted the concept perfectly for all “slots” with one exception: I needed a TTBB setting of Tota pulchra es. Couldn’t find one. So I wrote one myself, taking the opportunity to write for men’s choir, which I have only done a couple of times before. The piece will be premiered by the men of the JOVE in the concert En ros utsprungen on December 21.
I have set another ‘classic’ sacred text to music, and it’s one that is very close to my heart: the Ubi caritas et amor. Of course, it has been set to music many times and one of my favorites in that respect (the one by Maurice Duruflé) was sang as me and my wife entered the church during our wedding… so the text is very special, and in terms of my own faith, very true. The Haga Motettkör did a beautiful job performing this piece in service twice during the year, and this recording is from the second performance in October where it was featured as a reflective piece right after the sermon. The piece is a warm hymn with a more dynamic and harmonically challenging mid-section. Listen for yourself!
I am currently composing a setting of the seven Magnificat antiphons – a text which has been beautifully set to music before by composers such as Pawel Lukaszewski and Arvo Pärt. My suite is for a cappella choir and I believe the approach is unusually ‘technical’ for me: I have the idea to center each and one of the seven small pieces around a specific interval (as there are seven intervals on a major scale), so the first ‘O Sapientia’ will explore the major second and the last ‘O Emmanuel’ the perfect octave. The Antiphonae Intervallum will be premiered by the Haga Motettkör conducted by Ulrike Heider in service at the Haga Church, Göteborg, on December 14.