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Concert Review

20th Anniversary of "Lux Aeterna"

LA Master Chorale Performing Lux Aeterna, photo by Gary Murphy
  • Morten Lauridsen: Lux Aeterna
  • Eric Whitacre: I Fall
  • Billy Childs: In Gratitude
  • Moira Smiley: Time in Our Voices
  • Esa-Pekka Salonen: Iri da iri
  • Shawn Kirchner: Heavenly Home: Three American Songs
Los Angeles Master Chorale
Los Angeles Master Chorale Orchestra/Grant Gershon
Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA, 17 June 2017

The 20th anniversary of Lux Aeterna, Morten Lauridsen's "beautiful, quiet, meditation on the theme of illumination," was celebrated recently at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, CA by the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Five related works, including two World Premieres and one West Coast Premiere, composed by Esa-Pekka Salonen, Billy Childs, Moira Smiley, Eric Whitacre and Shawn Kirchner were also presented.

During the first half of the program, Grant Gershon conducted a cappela works by Esa-Pekka Salonen, Billy Childs and Shawn Kirchner. Ira da Iri was commissioned by the singers of the Master Chorale to write the piece for the ensemble's 50th anniversary season in 2014. The work follows themes of transcendence and illumination that Salonen captured in the music he set to the third part of Dante's La Divina Commedia. The music and language interlock rhythmically interlocking but at the same time it is densely contrapuntal.

Billy Childs' In Gratitude is a companion piece composed to Lux Aeterna. This World Premiere was commissioned by Classical Movements for the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Grant Gershon, Artistic Director as part of the Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program. Childs' music and poetry responds to Lauridsen's theme of eternal light with gratefulness and absolution. The piece is an a cappela work that has consonant and tonal language in the first part which deals with love; dissonant harmonies in the second part which deals with pain and loss; and lively vivid music in the final section that is celebratory. Childs, who was in the audience took a bow of appreciation to the Chorale and Gershon, and the audience who lead a robust ovation.

Jenny Wong, the assistant conductor of the LA Master Chorale, conducted the World Premiere of Moira Smiley's 1976 five-movement piece titled Time In Our Voices. Ms. Smiley was in the audience and took a bow to thank the participants for a brilliant performance. Grammy award-winning composer/conductor Eric Whitacre conducted the World Premiere of his moving piece titled I Fall which was written for his best friend's wife who passed away from cancer. Each work received highly appreciative applause prior to Grant Gershon's return to the stage to conduct Shawn Kirchner's Heavenly Home: Three American Songs. For this inspired work in three movements, Gershon reversed the performance of the movements with "Hallelujah," first, "Angel Band," second, and finally the jubilant "Unclouded Day" as the finale to a standing ovation. Kirchner is a long-time member of the tenor section of the Los Angeles Master Chorale and composed this piece circa 1970.

After intermission, Lux Aeterna was performed with reverence and adoration by the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Orchestra. This highly spiritual requiem was absolutely brilliant sacred music. Set to various texts and words from the Catholic Requiem, Morten Lauridsen's writing also interpolates light from the Psalms, the Gospel of John, and the Requiem Mass. The beauty of the Master Chorale's voices were inspiring and often sounded divine. The audience responded with roaring standing ovation for both the singers and especially when Morten Lauridsen took the stage. What a fortunate time for this writer to experience such a milestone of choral music by one of the world's leading chorales. Don't miss them on tour if and when they come your way. For more information about the Los Angeles Master Chorale, please visit their website.

Copyright © 2017, Paula Edelstein