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.
As a gift to the organizers behind the International Film Music Festival in Córdoba, Spain, – BSO Spirit – I wrote this little orchestral fanfare to celebrate their 10th anniversary. I am involved in the festival producing three symphonic concerts there on an annual basis. Incorporating themes from RoboCop by Basil Poledouris was my way to emphasize the “roots” of the special festival spirit, to which Poledouris contributed a considerable amount of heart and bravery when participating in one of the festival’s first editions in the midst of battling cancer. The fanfare was performed as the concert opener for our gala concert “Best of Film Music 2013-2014/A Tribute to Jerry Goldsmith” (which I also produced). This is the Orquesta de Córdoba conducted by Juan Manuel Parra. Had a lot of fun doing it and would certainly love to write more music for orchestra…
My fourth piece to be published by Santa Barbara Music Publishing in Florida, USA, is now available: Song of Faith, which is based on a text from Micah 7:7-8. The piece was commissioned by the Haga Church, Göteborg, to be performed in service and the text was in fact the same as one of the readings for this particular Sunday (the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, also known as Candlemass or, in Swedish, Kyndelsmässodagen). It’s a a really beautiful text which lended itself very well to a musical setting emphasizing the strong message of faith. The recording below is from the premiere performance by the Haga Motettkör conducted by Ulrike Heider during the above mentioned service.
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.
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.