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.

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.

Basic RGBHow 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.

[audio:http://www.moviescoremedia.com/hmk/hagamotetterna/hagamotetterna.mp3|titles=The Haga Motets – Full Concert, February 1, 2015 (Haga Motettkör/Ulrike Heider]

The program:

  1. Day Unto Day (4:00)
  2. Ubi caritas et amor (8:40)
  3. Song of Faith (13:32)
  4. Ave Maria (17:38)
  5. Piano improvisation over O Sacrum Convivium (22:22)
  6. O Sacrum Convivium (29:07)
  7. Piano improvisation over Kyrie (34:37)
  8. Kyrie (based on Sonata nr 39 K 402 by Domenico Scarlatti) (40:35)
  9. Piano improvisation over What Is God? (43:14)
  10. What Is God? (51:14)
  11. Lyckans minut (57:09)
  12. 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!

[audio:http://www.moviescoremedia.com/hmk/antifoner/02_oadonai.mp3|titles=Antiphonae Intervallum: O Adonai (Haga Motettkör/Ulrike Heider]

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!

[audio:http://moviescoremedia.com/mikaelcarlsson_choralmusic/ubicaritasetamor.mp3|titles=Ubi Caritas et Amor (Haga Motettkör/Ulrike Heider]

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…

[audio:http://mikaelcarlsson.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/fanfareforcordoba.mp3|titles=Fanfare for Córdoba (Orquesta de Córdoba/Juan Manuel Parra, conductor)]

1208My 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.

[audio:http://moviescoremedia.com/mikaelcarlsson_choralmusic/songoffaith.mp3|titles=Song of Faith (Haga Motettkör/Ulrike Heider)]

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.