I have spent an intense month of November writing a setting of “The Christmas Gospel” (Julevangeliet) which will be premiered at the Haga Church, Göteborg, on December 22. Commissioned by the Church of Sweden for its celebration of Christmas, this is a 12 movement suite written in the swedish and latin languages for string quartet, SATB soloists (or choir) and reciter.

The form is inspired by the traditional English Nine Lessons and Carols, expanding the traditional Swedish reading of ‘The Christmas Gospel’ (Luke 2:1-20) into a longer, approximately 40 minute work with underscored scripture readings combined with four part motets. Those are new settings of O magnum mysterium, Lux in tenebris, Det är en ros utsprungen (an arrangement of the Swedish version of A Spotless Rose), Ave Maria, In natali domini and Hodie Christus natus est. Only a couple of these are a cappella – the string quartet is providing the foundation for this work either underscoring the recitation, accompanying the singers or performing their “own” material either as thematic statements or as interludes.

While I have written a lot of choral music, this is a first – and humble! – attempt at composing for string quartet. I am excited that the Wulfson Quartet is going to perform the work for the first time, together with four excellent singers: Hedvig Eriksson (soprano), Amanda Flodin (alto), Mikael Englund (tenor) and Karl Peter Eriksson (bass). Ulrike Heider is the music director and I will do all of the readings myself.

So grateful for the opportunity to write this piece, which provided an opportunity for me to go back to my roots and interest in musical storytelling. Fingers crossed the music, and the performance, will evoke some of the magic of the magnum mysterium of Christmas!

As a concert producer specializing in the film music repertoire, I have been working quite a bit with Gothia Concentus, which is possibly the largest amateur symphony orchestra in Sweden. They do great concerts with a mix of film, video game and classical music. As a little gift to them for their 2017 season, I wrote a new fanfare to open their concerts. Of course, it’s based on the two pitches G and C! Enjoy!


I am pleased to announce that the wonderful Helsingborgs Vokalensemble will premiere my setting of The Lord Is My Shepherd in competition during the international choral festival ‘Canta en primavera’ in Málaga, Spain, on April 27, 2017. The women’s choir and its director Marianne Ivarsson commissioned the eight part piece and will perform it for the first time in their program which also features a new piece by David Basden. Good luck to the choir!

requiem-smallHow 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.

Shakespeare Nocturnes premiered by JOVE

April 26th, 2016 | Posted by mikaelcarlsson in composition | concerts - (Comments Off on Shakespeare Nocturnes premiered by JOVE)

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!

12670497_1004392172986091_3118415703745448951_nMy 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

shakespeareI 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.

1940bI 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.