The Valley Concert Chorale, celebrating 50 years as the Tri-Valley's premier chorus, is hosting a five-day choral festival this week, featuring the music of contemporary choral composer Morten Johannes Lauridsen.
Lauridsen was named an American Choral Master by the National Endowment for the Arts and was the 2007 recipient of the National Medal of Arts. He will attend the festival, which will include two choral performances on May 17 and 18, choral workshops for high school and college choirs, and the showing of a film documentary about his life on Wednesday (May 14).
"Having Mr. Lauridsen present to lead choral workshops and prepare the choirs for two incredible concerts is very exciting, especially for singers," said John Emory Bush, artistic director and conductor of the Chorale. "It's a great learning experience for everyone, especially for the college and high school students."
The Chorale, in collaboration with the choirs of California State University San Jose, California State University East Bay, Las Positas College and Amador Valley High School, will participate in the workshops, presented by Lauridsen himself. The culmination will be two performances of all-Lauridsen musical selections, at Mission Dolores Basilica in San Francisco and at the Amador Theater.
"This is a very special event for the Chorale, the colleges, high school and the community," Bush said.
The festival will include a special showing of the film, "Shining Night: A Portrait of Composer Morten Lauridsen," which offers a glimpse into his life and music. It won Best Documentary at the DC Independent Film Festival in 2012.
Lauridsen, 71, was composer-in-residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale (1994-2001) and has been a professor of composition at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music for more than 40 years. His works have been recorded on more than 200 CDs, five of which have received Grammy Award nominations.
Lauridsen is most noted for his seven vocal cycles and his series of a cappella motets, which are regularly performed by ensembles and vocal artists throughout the world. The two concerts will feature selections from his "Mid-Winter Songs," "Nocturnes," set to four poems, one of which is the moving "Sure on this Shining Night;" "Dirait-on" from his "Les Chansons des Roses" cycle; selections from "Madrigali: Six "Firesongs," "O Nata Lux" from "Lux Aeterna;" and "O Magnum Mysterium" performed a cappella.
Singers from the audience who know "Dirait-on" and "Sure on this Shining Night" are welcome to bring music and join the choirs in a reprise of these two selections.
"Mr. Lauridsen is one of, if not the most heralded choral composers in the world today," Bush said. "His choral works are some of the most moving and inspiring of pieces ever written, and we are so very fortunate to have him be a part of our 50th anniversary season, sharing his skill and insight to his music."
"It will be an experience the singers will never forget, and neither will the audiences who attend the May performances," he added.
Tickets for the film or the concerts may be purchased online, or by calling 866-4003. The all-volunteer, nonprofit Valley Concert Chorale receives financial support from grants, ticket sales, membership dues, fundraisers and donations.