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Grant to bring renowned composer to NIU for three-day residency

Internationally celebrated composer Morten Lauridsen will hold a three-day residency at the Northern Illinois University School of Music next semester thanks in part to a $1,800 grant from the DeKalb County Community Foundation.

Lauridsen’s February visit is a tremendous opportunity for NIU and the greater university community, Eric Johnson, the school’s director of choral activities, said in a news release.

Lauridsen’s busy agenda includes rehearsals, concerts, convocations, master classes and a lecture and demonstration for up to 700 nearby high school singers.

“It is rare that a composer of such stature comes to campus,” Johnson said. “As musicians, we benefit from understanding how others process, create and describe music. Interacting with a brilliant composer such as Morten Lauridsen would enrich the education of the current School of Music students and provide the faculty with a fascinating point of view.”

A professor of composition at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music for more than 30 years, Lauridsen is the most frequently performed American choral composer. His pieces enjoy hundreds of performances each year in such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and Westminster Abbey.

Lauridsen has sold nearly a million copies of his scores and has received nearly 300 commission requests. His works have been recorded on more than 100 CDs, three of which earned Grammy nominations.

In 2006, he was named an “American Choral Master” by the National Endowment for the Arts. At a White House ceremony in 2007, President Bush bestowed on him the National Medal of Arts “for his composition of radiant choral works combining musical beauty, power and spiritual depth.”

Lauridsen will begin his visit with a Feb. 16 all-school convocation, an open rehearsal with the NIU Chamber Choir, an open master class and a public and free concert of his works for solo and chamber ensembles featuring NIU faculty and student groups.

The Feb. 17 schedule includes a composer’s forum titled “Lauridsen on Lauridsen”; he will hold one-on-one meetings with student composers on Feb. 18.

His workshop for high school choirs – the Boutell Memorial Concert Hall can seat around a dozen high school groups, although nearly twice that many conductors already have expressed interest – will include a lecture about his music and performances of his works by the NIU Chamber Choir.

Those two hours are a golden opportunity to recruit excellent musicians and confirm NIU’s reputation as a first-choice institution, Johnson said.

“These students will experience NIU’s facilities, see and hear the performing ensembles and interact with NIU students and faculty,” he said. “The high school directors will become more familiar with NIU’s music program and will potentially endorse NIU as a quality option to future music students. These directors will also discuss this event with colleagues.”

Lauridsen’s visit will close Feb. 18 with an 8 p.m. performance of his “Lux Aeterna” by the NIU Concert Choir and NIU Philharmonic. The composer will deliver a free and public lecture about the concert at 6:30 p.m.

A post-concert reception will drop the curtain on the residency.

None of this cultural enrichment would occur without the generosity of the DeKalb County Community Foundation, Johnson said.

“When brainstorming about where to find funding sources, I immediately thought of the DeKalb County Community Foundation. They have funded choral projects in the past, and I know they are strongly committed to the arts and education in our community,” Johnson said in the release.

“In these tight economic times, our budgets have been cut past the bone, and external funding was necessary for this event to take place,” he added. “I am extremely grateful that organizations such as the DCCF exist. Their tireless work to support the community is essential for the well-being of us all.”

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