The music of National Medal of Arts recipient Morten Johannes Lauridsen, Composer-in-Residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale from 1995–2001 and Distinguished Professor of Composition at the USC Thornton School of Music for 50 years, occupies a permanent place in the standard vocal repertoire of the 21st century.
His eight vocal cycles—Les Chansons des Roses (Rilke), Mid-Winter Songs (Graves), A Winter Come (Moss), Madrigali: Six "FireSongs" on Italian Renaissance Poems, Nocturnes (Rilke, Neruda and Agee), A Backyard Universe (Witt), Cuatro Canciones (Lorca), and Lux Aeterna—his series of sacred a cappella motets (O Magnum Mysterium, Ave Maria, O Nata Lux, Ubi Caritas et Amor and Ave Dulcissima Maria), numerous instrumental works and art songs are featured regularly in concert by distinguished artists and ensembles throughout the world. O Magnum Mysterium, Diraiton (from Les Chansons des Roses), O Nata Lux (from Lux Aeterna) and Sure On This Shining Night (from Nocturnes) have become the all-time best-selling choral octavos distributed by Theodore Presser, in business since 1783. Nearly two million copies of his musical scores have been sold. His principal publishers are Peermusic (New York/Hamburg) and Faber Music (London).
In speaking of Lauridsen's sacred works in his book Choral Music in the Twentieth Century, musicologist and conductor Nick Strimple describes Lauridsen as "the only American composer in history who can be called a mystic, (whose) probing, serene work contains an elusive and indefinable ingredient which leaves the impression that all the questions have been answered ... From 1993 Lauridsen's music rapidly increased in international popularity, and by century's end he had eclipsed Randall Thompson as the most frequently performed American choral composer."
His works have been recorded on more than 200 CDs, five of which have received Grammy nominations, and he has been Visiting Composer-in- Residence at over one hundred universities throughout the world and has received honorary doctorates from Whitman College, Oklahoma State University, Westminster Choir College and King’s College, University of Aberdeen, Scotland. A native of the Pacific Northwest, he worked as a Forest Service firefighter and lookout (on an isolated tower near Mt. St. Helens) before traveling south to study composition with Halsey Stevens, Ingolf Dahl, Robert Linn, and Harold Owen. A recipient of numerous grants, prizes, and commissions, Lauridsen chaired the Composition department at the USC Thornton School of Music from 1990–2002 and founded the School’s Advanced Studies program in Film Scoring. His music has been featured in the documentary “Rebuilding the World Trade Center” and in the film “Angels and Demons.”
His life as a composer has been documented in Michael Stillwater’s awardwinning film (including being the Audience Choice at the first Friday Harbor Film Festival in 2013) Shining Night: A Portrait of ComposerMorten Lauridsen. Lauridsen now divides his time between Los Angeles, his home on San Juan Island and his summer cabins on a remote island off the northern coast of Washington State.
In 2006 Morten Lauridsen was designated an "American Choral Master" by the National Endowment for the Arts and in 2007 he received the National Medal of Arts from the President of the United States in a White House ceremony, "for his composition of radiant choral works combining musical beauty, power and spiritual depth that have thrilled audiences worldwide." The National Medal of Arts is the highest award given to
artists and arts patrons by the United States government.
In 2014 Morten Lauridsen was named Honorary Artistic President of INTERKULTUR / World Choir Games and in 2016 he was the recipient of the ASCAP Foundation Life in Music Award at Lincoln Center, an award presented to an ASCAP writer member for his or her outstanding accomplishments as a composer, songwriter, performer, arranger or vocalist in any genre.